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

, , ,

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?
Share:
Read More
, , ,

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?

Share:
Read More
, , ,

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?
Share:
Read More
, , ,

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.
Share:
Read More