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

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Closing the Income Gap


I'm just popping on to this here olde blog to say that

We have some discretionary income again!

My part-time work hours have ramped up. I was initially offered 12 hours per week, then 15. Someone quit; I took on some of their responsibilities, so now I'm on the books for 18 hours per week. Today, my boss told me that I can work 30 hours per week for the next month or so because management is starting to get anxious about meeting an upcoming deadline.

For September, anyway, we'll exceed our expenses by at least $300. It's going straight into savings.

*whispering* We may hit our e-fund goal this month.

Woot woot.

If the same thing happens next month, it's sinking funds time!

Yes, I certainly find it problematic that my company won't offer me health insurance or other benefits, but honestly, I'm pretty happy with what I'm doing and can't imagine ditching this gig for a random 8-to-5 desk job. Especially because my daily schedule looks something like this:

     6:30 AM: Wake up; drink coffee
     7:15 AM: Get kid out the door
     7:30 AM: Run and breakfast
     9:30 AM-ish: Work for however many hours
     If time in afternoon: Laundry or random television show watching or trips to library
     4 PM: Help kid get snack and organize homework

Is there another job that's going to afford me this level of flexibility? With benefits? And no micromanagement?

When that unicorn canters into town, I'm there. Until then, I'll stick with what I've got.

Another piece of news: I'm putting Rover on hold. I love that I have it in my back pocket in case I need to earn some quick cash. At any moment, I could unlock my profile and adjust my settings to guarantee some bookings. But I feel like I have enough on my plate, and I don't want to burn out by taking on unnecessary side jobs.
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I Won A Plutus Award!


A few days ago, on the last day of FinCon 2019, The $76K Project won the Plutus Foundation's Best Debt Freedom Blog award, presented by Sandy of Yes, I Am Cheap.

Thank you so much to Sandy, the Plutus Foundation, the people who decided my blog was worth nominating, and the panelists who made the final decision. Oh, and JD Roth of Get Rich Slowly, who accepted the award on my behalf. You guys rock.

The win meant a lot to me. Because I wasn't at FinCon (I mean, how do you maintain your credibility as an in-process debt freedom blogger while shelling out hundreds of dollars for a conference across the country) and had a bunch of stuff going on at the end of last week, I'd completely forgotten about the awards ceremony. I found out about the win while I was out on a run; my phone started pinging like mad. You can bet that news put some extra pep in my step.

The weird thing about winning this award now is that I've been feeling rather conflicted about The $76K Project. I don't know if it's useful for anyone. It's supposed to be a debt freedom blog, but... I rarely give advice on how to tackle debt. I can tell you what we've done, but I cannot in good conscience prescribe a specific approach for getting your finances in order because (a) everyone's circumstances are so different and (b) what do I know. We still have student loan debt, and given that I recently transitioned to a part-time job with no benefits, we're gonna be hanging onto that debt for a while. A long, long while.

If someone were to take a quick peek at our finances and offer advice on how to press the gas on this whole process, I'm pretty sure I know what they'd say:

     Get a higher-paying job!

     Move to an area with a lower cost of living!

     Find a cheaper apartment!

And although the sentiment behind the advice would be appreciated, I'd apply none of it - because that advice doesn't mesh with our current circumstances:

      I had a higher-paying job. It made me depressed, stressed, anxious, and mentally unwell.

     For the first time ever, we live in a place we love, in a community we adore. Plus, the sunshine helps my mood, and that is no small thing.

     If we moved to a cheaper apartment, my partner would have to drive a long way to work and we'd be sharing walls. No more wall sharing.

People can think what they want, but at the end of the day, we have our non-negotiables, and we're not sacrificing them to get out of debt faster.

Because money isn't everything.

If all you're focusing on is your finances - whether that's paying off your student loan as quickly as possible or banking a few million bucks by the time you're 35 - you might find that you're pretty damn unhappy.

Personally? I don't think it's healthy to obsess about money for years on end, and I'm not going to. Our approach now is a blend of "Plan For The Future" and "YOLO".

All this to say: unsolicited advice is a tricky thing. Frankly, it is often completely useless (yes, I'll go there), usually influenced by the advice-giver's own unique experiences, and sometimes harmful (looking at you, Schmave Schmamsey). I don't like getting unsolicited advice. I feel more than a little squirmy giving it.

Which is why I question my efficacy as a debt freedom blogger. I'm not sure I'm a good example, and I can't tell you How To Get Out Of Debt In Ten Easy Steps! (You'll find some advice on this blog about budgeting and tracking expenses, but all of a dozen people have actually read those posts. As it turns out, budgeting and expense tracking are effective but also extremely dull, no matter how many ways the talking head money guys on cable television spin it.)

So. The plan moving forward is to continue with the blog but just keep telling our story. It may be boring, and it may be long, but hey, if you stick around for the next ten years, there might be a final chapter worth waiting for.
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Staying Afloat: 2019 Goals Check-In


My kid started seventh grade a few weeks ago, my birthday is in less than two months, and FinCon 2019 is a mere 48 hours away.

Though I can offer no scientific proof, trust me: time is accelerating.



Anyway, given that it's suddenly September 2 - 2/3 OF THE WAY THROUGH THE YEAR HOW IN THE WORLD - I figured now might be a good time to review our/my 2019 goals and see how we're doing.

Are we succeeding? Failing miserably? Somewhere in between?

Let's take a look.


Goal #1: Quit my current job. 
Status: Goal met! Twice!

That's right, folks: being the overachiever that I am, I met this goal two times by the end of April! First I quit the bullshit job that made me want to crawl under my desk and weep on a daily basis, and then I quit the exploitative job that made me want to crawl under my desk and weep every hour on the hour.

Things were so bad when I quit the second job that I felt like I was jumping off a cliff to get away from a hungry lion while wearing a hastily-donned parachute full of duct-taped holes (i.e., exhilarating! Terrifying! Nothing left to lose!) But the risk was worth it. It gave me the time and headspace I needed to land a job I (generally) enjoy with hours I can tolerate.

Goal #2: Pay off my student loan. 
Status: Goal met!

I paid off my student loan in March. We now owe less than $37,000 in total (on Fortysomething's student loan). You'll find our most recent debt update here.

Goal #3: Pay off our remaining medical bills.
Status: Goal met!

As of the beginning of the year, we still owed $1300 to the hospital for the Kiddo's appendectomy. We wiped out the balance by March.

Goal #4: Save $10,000 in our emergency fund.
Status: We're so close!

Here's what I wrote back in January about the rationale for this goal: "My impending job change makes me nervous. What if it doesn't work out? What if I suck as an editor? Or what if - GOD FORBID BECAUSE PLEASE CAN I ACTUALLY LIKE MY WORK FOR ONCE - I'm miserable again?"

Haha. Ha. Hahahahahahahahaha.

Anyway, as of this writing, we are 95% of the way there. Despite our tight budget, we may still meet this goal in 2019, especially if we're willing to take on some extra side gigs to make it happen.

Goal #5: Pay off our campground membership. 
Status: Not yet. 

We have less than $2000 left on this loan/membership. If we can make our current budget work without dipping into our emergency fund, I'll be tempted to pay it off by the end of the year. That would free up a little more than $100/month.

Goal #6: Achieve a positive net worth.
Status: Nope.

But again, we're not that far off. We probably won't hit this goal in 2019, but that's okay because we have less than $10K to go.

Goal #7: Max out my HSA. 
Status: What HSA?

Before I left The Worst Job Ever, I was planning to max out my HDHP-associated HSA. Now that I'm working part-time with no employer-sponsored benefits, I don't contribute to one. That said, I still have about $1000 left in my previous HSA accounts.

Goal #8. Attend a financial workshop or retreat. 
Status: I'll meet this goal twice!

I attended Lola Retreat back in February after receiving a ticket scholarship. In October, I'll be going to CentsPositive in Seattle, thanks to a very kind hero in the personal finance community who offered to cover my registration costs.

Goals #9, 10, and 11: At least four days a week, meditate for 10-15 minutes, work out, and drink 64 ounces of water.
Status: Wellllll...

I was completely crushing these goals in the first quarter of the year. I fell off the meditation wagon while working the hellhole job, and I stopped tracking water intake back in April or May (although I definitely drink more of it than I used to).

But I'm doing great with working out. I run at least five days a week and lift weights twice a week. I've also been stretching for 15 minutes a day to improve my flexibility.

Goal #12: Get my passport renewed.
Status: Hasn't happened yet.

Because we have no immediate plans to travel internationally, and because passport renewal is kind of expensive, I just haven't gotten around to checking this one off the list. It isn't a top priority.

Goal #13: Attend mini family reunion at Disneyland. 
Status: Goal met!

In retrospect, I'm thrilled that I included a trip to Disney in my goals list. Remind me to do something similar every year. It felt great to count doing something fun and frivolous as a big win. 

Goal #14: Visit family in the northeast.
Status: No, but we did visit other relatives.

We didn't visit Fortysomething's family this year, but we did travel east to see my family.

God, travel is so freaking expensive. So. Expensive. It's a problem.

Goal #15: Visit family in the Pacific Northwest.
Status: It's going to happen!

Because CentsPositive is in Seattle, I'll be able to visit my family then.

Goal #16: Comment on or share three posts, four times per week.
Status: I'm trying?

I'm not meeting this goal right now. I don't read blogs every day. But when I do, I'm making more of an effort to comment and share.

Goal #17: Make $100 on the blog! 
Status: *snort*

I made this goal back when my AdSense account was still functional. Then I switched to my own domain... and I haven't been able to make it work since then. It's fine. I've decided that I probably won't make any money from this blog. The fact that I've been maintaining The $76K Project for two years now is a major success in and of itself.

Goal #18. Read two books per month and log them on Goodreads.
Status: Sort of.

I'm reading (mostly thrillers and mysteries). I'm not logging them on Goodreads. I probably never will.

Goal #19: I'd like to worry less. 
Status: I AM DOING THE OPPOSITE.

Maybe it has to do with the current political climate, or with the fact that the rainforest is burning down, or with my neverending midlife crisis, but I worry now more than ever. If I could make money from worrying, I would be Warren Buffett rich.

My sense is that a lot of this worry stems from this year's massive job upheaval. My whole professional identity has been completely dismantled, an experience that has been unsettling and kind of traumatizing. I'm still working through it. But my hope is that as I start from scratch and build a work life I actually want, my brain will settle down a little.

In short, it looks like we'll meet about half of our original 2019 goals. I think that's pretty darn good, especially considering how much has changed this year.

With that in mind, there are a couple of goals I'd like to add:

Goal #20: Avoid dipping into the emergency fund for regular monthly expenses. That is, I'd like to be able to cover our bills using just our monthly income. It'll be tight - the amount coming in is close to the amount going out - but I think we can do it.

Obviously, if an actual emergency arises, relying on the emergency fund will be a great move.

Goal #21: Make $1200/month from my online teaching job. My hours were recently increased, and they may increase again. I should be able to meet this goal. I can always supplement with Rover gigs if I need to.

Goal #22: Per my Life Elimination Diet, continue culling activities and obligations that are no longer serving me. Rover is still on the chopping block, but I haven't made any final decisions.

What about you? How are you doing with your 2019 goals? Which ones have you met? Which ones have you abandoned? (PSA: It's a great idea to abandon goals if they no longer apply!)
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Part-Time Lifestyle And Income Report #3 (Week Of August 19)



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.


Personal Income This Week


Online Teaching Job: $264

This week I worked 12 hours, per my boss's request. I could have worked more; there's plenty to do now that we're updating all of the courses. I'm not entirely convinced that management's expectations and budget are realistic given the time frame they're working with, but if I feel crunched next week, I'll ask if I can work 15 hours on a regular basis.

Updating the courses is actually a lot of fun for me. Curriculum design was always my favorite part of teaching, and I think I'm good at it. However, the online learning system we're using is clunky, and making changes is not as straightforward as it should be.

Fortysomething keeps saying that this is one of those jobs that will probably expand over time and that if I stick with it, I'll probably get more and more hours. I would not be opposed to that.

Rover: $21

My Rover total is rather paltry, but that's because I had only two bookings: a drop-in visit with a regular cat client whose human friend likes me to check in while she's doing overnight shifts at work, and a "walk" with a shy dog who just wanted to sit under the table and eat treats (me too, buddy). Keep in mind that a) this reflects my total earnings after Rover took its cut and b) I don't charge much for the cat because her owner was one of my first clients and I haven't upped her rate yet.

That said, two good Rover things happened this week:

1. I met with and booked two new clients for next week. Both of these clients have expressed an interest in me being their regular sitter. One client needs me to check in with her puppy twice a day, several days a week, for the next few weeks. That will definitely be worth it.

2. The shy dog's human friend has decided to have me come over weekly, so that's another regular gig.

Total income this week: $285

In Other News


1. I officially found out that I didn't get the job that semi-ghosted me. "You were a good candidate, but we selected a better candidate!" Cool, thanks.

I'm not disappointed by the rejection. The whole process has been rife with red flags, leading me to believe that the job probably isn't worth what it pays.

In retrospect, I'm starting to think that their candidate search was a charade put on to appease HR when in fact they knew who they wanted all along. It's just a hunch. The lack of a true phone screen, the fact that the second-in-command missed 3/4 of my panel interview, and the blase manner in which they communicated with me following the interview make me think it could have been a sham. I was a good candidate for the position, I would have done the job well, and I should have been treated with more respect.

Anyway, frustrating situations are beneficial in that they help you figure out what your boundaries are. I've decided I am done applying for full-time job openings posted on the Internet. If opportunities arise through friends or my community, and if it feels like the hiring process will be a collaborative one, sure. But I'm done with the apply, wait, interview, wait, interview, wait, wait, wait nonsense. It's too inefficient and gives the employer way too much power.

If you're thinking, Wow, this really seemed to bother you! Yup. It did. I have no patience for bullshit.

2. I played a lot of online board games with Done By FortyTenacious Feminist, and Frugalish Physician this week, which was immensely fun despite the fact that Done By Forty is a total game shark. I know, I know, he's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Still a shark.

3. I've been running a lot. My current goal for the rest of the month is to run 4.5 miles x five days a week, plus 7-8 miles one other day. After that, I'd like to ramp up to 5 miles x five days a week, with one long run.

I've also been thinking about what I want to do with my running. Although I'm the most average middle-of-packer you'll ever meet, I am absolutely passionate about the sport, and I really want to push myself to see what I can achieve. Establishing a healthy, sustainable training regimen is part of that. Racing is another part.

For the first time in years, I have the time I need to train for whatever I want to do. But as is so often the case, there's an inverse relationship between time and money. With us being on a limited budget (and OH YEAH, still working to pay off $37K in student loan debt), it's hard to justify paying, like, $70 to enter a 25K race.

On the other hand, I'm healthy now. I'm in shape now. And running is something that is very important to me. So maybe it's worth taking a page from YOLO me of the past and just diving in, even if it's not the most budget-friendly thing to do.

So I don't know.

Anyway, how was your week?
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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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Part-Time Lifestyle And Income Report #1 (Week Of August 5)


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.

Personal Income This Week 


Rover: $94 (after Rover fees)

This week, I booked a few one-off drop-in visits as well as a steady four-day dogwalking gig. To be honest, I'm not sure it was worth it. I drove across town on Monday to discover that the owner had forgotten to leave a key. Another person booked me to walk a super-shy dog who refused to come out (which was fine, but I felt bad that I couldn't meet the owner's expectations). In a couple of other instances, I walked into my clients' homes to find that their roommates were home and were unaware that I'd been stopping by. It was awkward.

Dealing with one or two of these situations on a weekly basis is okay, but having to manage unexpected, people-related issues or challenges at every visit is exhausting.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I've kind of had it with Rover at the moment, but I'm going to keep going to see if I can get some better bookings over Labor Day. I've found that the best petsitting gigs are those that span several days; that way, you have a chance to get to know the pet, develop a routine, and figure out what to expect from the owner.

Online Teaching Job: $264

My new part-time online teaching job started on Tuesday. I'm slated to work 12 hours per week. This week, those hours were quickly allocated to administrative tasks, meetings, review of course materials, and grading. My position has been open for a while, so by the time I'd met my hourly quota, I still had piles of tasks to finish... but I stopped, because I'm not working for free.

Overall, the job is enjoyable. Online teaching was my bread and butter for years, so even with new policies and new courses, it's still relatively easy for me to dive in and get things done without feeling overly stressed out.

I've already asked my boss if I can work a few additional hours next week to help get them caught up, and she said yes. Yay for some extra income on the horizon.

Total income this week: $358

This Week's Challenges


Aside from the petsitting debacles and typical new job anxiety, my biggest challenges this week were an insurance issue and being ghosted by the organization that interviewed me for a full-time job I was pretty excited about.

The interview took place two weeks ago. I've heard nothing since then, except for a brief acknowledgment of the thank you note I sent. It's upsetting. Some people will probably argue that this is just the way it is and that I should move on. I agree, and yet I still feel angry and frustrated, probably because this situation serves as yet another instance of being treated like shit by a supposedly professional organization. I prepared for this interview. I researched the people and the mission, and I gave a lot of thought to how I could contribute. I took time out of my day to attend the interview and spent money on parking. I gave real, honest, and detailed answers to every question they asked. I did not BS my way through any of it.

Ultimately, the entire experience was a complete waste of time and energy, but there was no way for me to know that at the outset. How am I supposed to trust prospective employers when so many of them behave so badly? Why would I want to continue doing this to myself?

As for the insurance issue: the company that offers my short-term insurance is the same one that offered my insurance at my previous job. My employer-sponsored insurance ended in April, and my self-sponsored insurance started in May. I had a skin cancer screening at the beginning of July, at which time I provided my self-sponsored insurance card to the doctor's office.

For whatever reason, the insurance company decided to file the claim under my expired insurance instead of my active insurance. And WHAT DO YOU KNOW: expired insurance covers a grand total of nothing! So now I have to get on the phone with the company and try to get it sorted out, because nothing about insurance in the U.S. is ever straightforward.

How I'm Feeling Overall


Overall, I'm feeling that I do not want to drive my car off a cliff, which is a substantial improvement over how I was feeling earlier this year. So... win? I have no regrets about quitting my old job, taking time off, and starting over. No regrets whatsoever.

At the same time, I do worry about being able to make ends meet, and I feel frustrated about some of the things associated with this new part-time lifestyle:

  • Job searches are a giant pain in the ass.
  • Shitty insurance is a giant pain in the ass.
  • Dealing with people can be a giant pain in the ass.

Also, before someone hops onto their soapbox to tell me to JUST BE POSITIVE, I keep this blog mostly as a record for myself and my family. Therefore, I'm writing things down the way that I see and feel them.

So how was your week?
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Starting Again


One of my goals is to write more frequently on the blog: shorter posts, most likely, but more often. So here we go!

A Fresh Start


Two things happen tomorrow: my kid starts a new school year, and I start a new part-time job.

The Kiddo has mixed feelings about school. He's been a bit bored the past few weeks, so I think he's looking forward to seeing his friends and having more to do. On the other hand, he's not excited about homework, and he knows his days are likely to be long and tiring. It will be a challenging year from an academic standpoint.

Meanwhile, I have mixed feelings about starting this part-time job. The extra money will be extremely nice, but because so many of my previous jobs have been terrible, I can't help but walk into this endeavor with a hefty dose of skepticism.

I'm particularly skeptical about the pay structure. In previous teaching positions, I've always been paid a salary or a per-class stipend. In this case, I'm on an hourly timesheet-type structure, and I'm limited to 12 hours a week. I'm wary because it's hard to know how long grading, responding to emails, reviewing material, and attending meetings will take, especially at first.

What I do know is that I will not be doing any of it for free.

(Repeating for myself: I will not be doing any of it for free. I will not be doing any of it for free. I will not be doing any of it for free.)

Secondly, although I greatly, GREATLY appreciate the fact that I didn't have to jump through two dozen hoops to get this gig, I am not super excited about the job itself (I have to be honest). It's another version of work I've done for the last 10+ years, work that I keep falling back into because it's familiar and generally fairly easy.

But it's just 12 hours a week, so there's that. In a sense, who cares if I'm not pumped about it.

Still Waiting


I'm also still waiting for news on the full-time job I applied and interviewed for. Fortysomething, while supportive of whatever I do, thinks I should forget about it. He believes going back to 40 hours a week will be too stressful for me and that the part-time option will be better for everyone. Between my part-time job and pet sitting, we should be able to get by without dipping into savings. Plus, one of us will always be around to handle kid-related activities and issues.

I'm on the fence. I see his point, but I think the right full-time job, especially one in my field (which this is) with friendly in-person coworkers and good work-life balance, could be beneficial financially and emotionally.

Financially, we'd be able to live comfortably, especially with employer-sponsored benefits thrown into the mix. By my calculations, we'd be able to pay off our campground membership, throw $1000/month at the student loan, and still put a good chunk of cash into savings and investments. We'd have something to fall back on if something happens to Fortysomething's job.

Emotionally, although I'm wary of finding myself in yet another stressful situation and will never again work for an employer like my last one, I do appreciate having work to occupy my mind and keep it from spiraling out of control, especially at a time when everything in this country seems so scary and catastrophic. And... I went to school to do science. I'm good at science. Is it too much to ask to have a science-y job that is both fulfilling and manageable?

That said, I'm not enjoying the waiting game, and I strongly suspect the fact that I didn't hear something last week means I'm not getting an offer.

We'll see. I'll let you know. And I suppose I'll keep applying for other jobs as interesting ones pop up, though the job market here is looking pretty sparse at the moment.

Am I Still On A Career Break?


This is something I keep asking myself, and I'm not really sure what the answer is. I suppose I'm in a transitional phase: I'm actively trying to figure out what's next and experimenting with some different possibilities. What I do know for sure is that I'm ready to dig back into something now that I have renewed energy and a better idea of what I do and do not want.
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