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My canopied bed at the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel.

It’s Monday, which means it’s time to check in with our weekend spending.

Last week, I estimated that I would spend $100 on Disneyland food, $40 on the Lyft from my hotel to the airport, $20 on the Lyft from the airport to my apartment, and $150 on a same-day grocery delivery order once I got home.

I spent:

  • $41.46 on food (looks like I estimated WAY HIGH there)
  • $16.15 on four Haunted Mansion postcards, which now hang in my home office as if they were the full-sized artwork I was too cheap to buy
  • $23 on the Lyft from my hotel to the Orange County airport
  • $17 on the Lyft from the Cedar Rapids airport to my apartment
  • $150.47 on the grocery order

Total spending: $248.08.

How about you?

Photo by Alvin Engler on Unsplash.

Dear Businesslady,

I manage an awesome team of high achievers who take a lot of pride and personal satisfaction in their work. As their manager, I’m committed to making sure they’re feeling challenged and supported, and helping them prioritize tasks when things get busy.

There’s a person on my team who’s been going through a rough patch in his personal life — although I’m not privy to the details. This has impacted his work a bit, although not in any way that’s actively becoming a problem, and everyone, myself included, is still really happy with his overall performance. Plus, we’re fortunate enough to work at a company that’s very into “the whole employee,” and my boss agrees that we should try to do what we can to minimize stress for this person while he deals with personal stuff.

Here’s the problem: he feels terrible about the impact to his productivity, and no amount of reassurances on my part seem to be helping. In our one-on-one meetings, he’s constantly berating himself or freaking out, and I have to talk him down so we can figure out a plan to get the work done. I’m fine with people on my team venting to me occasionally, but I’m becoming frustrated with how much of my time is taken up dealing with this person’s feelings — especially since, as...

Photo credit: Anders Sandberg, CC BY 2.0.

I pre-wrote all of this week’s posts before going on vacation, which means today’s Open Thread is about a Slate article from Monday — but if you haven’t yet read it, it’s worth the look.

In the article, Alison Green (of Ask A Manager) explains how bad jobs can distort our sense of what the workplace should be like:

Working at a dysfunctional job is terrible for all the obvious reasons: unclear expectations, unrealistic workload, tyrannical boss, toxic co-workers, or whatever might warrant the category of “dysfunctional job” in the first place. But on top of the obvious, bad jobs exact an additional price that many people don’t know about. If you stay in one long enough, it can totally warp your idea of normal. You’ll often end up accepting things as unexceptional that you shouldn’t tolerate at all, like unfair pay or being yelled at—and these expectations can shadow you into your next job too.

So consider this your Bad Jobs Open Thread, whether you want to discuss your own bad jobs or the examples Alison cites in her article.

(Also, I’ll start doing Friday Chats again once I get back home — so if you’d like to volunteer for a Friday Chat, email!)

Photo credit: Uwe Schreiber, CC BY 2.0.

It’s Friday, which means it’s time to estimate our weekend spending.

I will be wrapping up my Disneyland trip this weekend, which means I’ll probably spend $100ish on food (I have reservations at the Blue Bayou), $40 on the Lyft from my hotel back to the airport, another $20 on a Lyft from the Cedar Rapids airport to my apartment (I’ll be getting in too late to take the bus) and $150 on the same-day grocery delivery order I’m planning to place on Sunday morning.

Total estimate: $325.

How about you?


Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

When I was a teenage mall-frequenter, there was something so uncool about returning clothes. Maybe it was the memory of returns as a kid, my mom scrounging for receipts and garments with tags still attached and then waiting in long lines to get money back. Maybe it was the fact that most of my clothes were fast fashion and not expensive enough to make the return worthwhile. Maybe it was that I hated the awkward encounters with sales associates who already seemed pretty annoyed at my presence.

Things changed once buying clothes was less an exercise how I could spend my disposable income and more of a required expense — I needed to be appropriately dressed for life, after all. As I began investing in quality wardrobe pieces that often came with a higher price tag, I also started returning any purchases that, on second thought, weren’t the best choices for my wardrobe. I still felt a little awkward making the return, but if I wasn’t going to get decent use out of a $60 dress, the money was better used towards other things.

Technology has changed the way we buy and return clothes. When ordering clothes from online retailers, sometimes it takes multiple purchases to find the right size and fit — so...

Since we’re transitioning from our Food Series to our Clothing Series, I thought I’d share how I’ve been handling both food and clothes on my current Book & Teaching Tour (Plus Vacation!).

First, some numbers:

  • 13 days
  • 4 cities
  • 8 flights
  • 1 bus
  • 4 dresses
  • 1 cardigan
  • 1 pashmina
  • 1 jacket
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 2 pairs of pajamas
  • 1 pair of workout clothes
  • 12 bra/underwear components
  • 1 bag of Huel
  • 1 refillable aluminum water bottle
  • 1 box of Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer Tea

First of all, packing my own tea is a game-changer and I am never taking another trip without tossing a box into my bag. I’m writing this post on Monday, and I’ve already consumed three cups of tea and will very likely have a fourth after I finish teaching my evening class. I know that there are way better teas than Celestial Seasonings and sometimes hotels even offer those teas for free along with their individually-wrapped servings of regular and decaf coffee, but it’s so nice to just have my own tea, that I like, that also has B vitamins in it.

Second of all, when I made my outfit grid for this trip, I also made a meal grid. When would I eat Huel, and when would I purchase food?

As of Monday afternoon, when I’m writing this, there have been 24 meal opportunities and I have only paid for four of them. Two of those meals included treating my friends to dinner, but I also...

Photo credit: Jeremy Thompson, CC BY 2.0.

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time to Do 1 Thing.

Today, my 1 Thing is to CONTINUE ENJOYING MY DISNEYLAND VACATION. This year, instead of bunking at the Super 8, I splurged on one of the many hotels shaped like castles and specified that I wanted a “premium castle room,” which means my bed is all decked out in canopies, and I will not think about how often those canopies are washed.

How about you?

Photo credit: Steven Depolo, CC BY 2.0.

One of the biggest lies I was told as a teenager was that my acne would clear up once I became an adult. For plenty of people, this is reasonably true (plus or minus the occasional pimple). But my inflammatory and cystic acne stuck around well after I could rent a car without a co-signer.

Every day required constant monitoring of my face and body for redness, bumps, and pus pockets. I was taking pills, slathering creams, and trying to never touch my face. I quietly seethed at women who announced that they had stopped wearing makeup, my head swirling with a dark inner refrain of “Must be nice, having the type of skin that lets you make that choice.” The mental effort and physical time I spent worrying over and trying to manage my acne was exhausting and felt obligatory. I was never going to be the body-positive hero who just accepted it and moved on.

I’m not sure what broke the dam, but one day I woke with the conviction that I was ready. I wanted the scary drugs. I wanted Accutane. I wanted to be done with this.

Primary care appointment for specialist referral: $30 co-pay

One of the factors that motivated my decision was the fact that I had pretty good insurance through...

Photo by Andreas Weiland on Unsplash.

How many of you have a separate budget line item for… well… happiness?

I don’t mean a vacation budget, which is more like a once-a-year thing. This is money that you budget in advance for the stuff that’ll make you happy — or, as Holly Trantham explains for NBC’s Better blog:

My “happiness budget” is money set aside for things that either a) make me feel the best in my day-to-day, or b) are things I simply enjoy the most.

She lists a few items that fall under the “happiness budget” category, including dinners at her favorite restaurant, yoga classes, and spontaneous theater tickets. I’m curious whether her budget also includes line items for “restaurants,” “health,” and “entertainment,” and, if that’s the case, why certain purchases come out of “happiness” while others don’t — but I also totally get that some restaurant meals are obligations while others are pleasurable, and maybe it makes sense to separate those expenses out.

So. Do we all need to set aside a chunk of cash for our own happiness? Is it another way of paying ourselves first, before that money gets thrown towards restaurants we don’t want to visit? For those of us who would argue that (for example) paying down our debt more quickly or adding money to our savings accounts does make us happy, would a separate happiness budget force...

Photo credit: Georgio, CC BY 2.0.

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time to bring out those financial questions you’ve saved up.

Today, my question is whether you can tell that I’m on vacation. (I’m actually drafting this post on Monday afternoon, from my hotel room in Juneau, prior to teaching “Getting Started as a Freelancer” for 49 Writers. By the time you read this, I’ll be in Anaheim — because yes, I went to Disneyland AGAIN.)

Since that’s more of an announcement than a real question, I’ll let you ask your own questions in the comments.


Photo credit: slgckgc, CC BY 2.0.

Let me just say in advance, I can’t in good conscience recommend this as a tactic. But I can’t deny that it worked. was supposed to contact me about the replacement cabinet dowels within a week. I hadn’t heard anything, so I gave them a call. “We emailed you a couple of days ago,” said the customer service representative, but the email had gotten lost in the depths of my spam folder, so she told me the details over the phone. “We can’t just send you the parts you need, but we have the cabinet in stock, so we can just send you another one if you want.”

“You’re just going to send me… a replacement cabinet? For free?”

Miraculously, she answered in the affirmative.

“That sounds great,” I marveled. “Yes, let’s go ahead and do that.”

So we went ahead and placed the new order, and just as we were finishing up she said, “And when you get the new cabinet, you can just open up the box, take out the parts you need, and send the cabinet back to us with the free shipping label included!”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “You want me to what?


The adorable dog.

Devon (not her real name) is a 32-year-old credit union branch manager in Portland. She did a previous Doing Money interview, “How a Bank Manager With Three Roommates Does Money,” in 2015.

So, Devon, how has your life changed since 2015?

Hoo boy. Well, I moved in with my boyfriend in Chicago in 2016. That changed a lot of the way I managed money. Then we got a dog in early 2017. We lived together in Chicago for just over a year before moving to Portland, Oregon in September of 2017.

I’m going to ask you about how your relationship to money changed, but first: what kind of dog????

She is a golden retriever. My boyfriend grew up with them and had been dreaming about a golden girl of his own since he was very young. It was actually something we talked about early on, since it would have likely been a deal breaker for him if I wasn’t a dog person!

❤️ ❤️ ❤️ So glad that worked out.

Me too! I had always had small dogs, but the big ones are better snugglers.

And goldies are so friendly! And loyal. They’re like the perfect dog, if all the other dogs weren’t also perfect.

But back to money! How did the way you “do money” change after you moved in with...

Photo credit: Joanna Bourne, CC BY 2.0.

Today’s must-read essay comes from The New York Times, and it’s called “I Have Post-Brokeness Stress Disorder.” Damon Young, of Very Smart Brothas, writes about how difficult it is for him to accept his current financial stability — in part because he views it as temporary:

[…] I still feel the same as I did that morning my car was taken. I don’t have impostor syndrome. I believe I deserve my success. I am, however, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m so used to mundane financial setbacks — an overdraft fee here, a cellphone temporarily disconnected there — that my new status is too surreal for my brain to accept.

It took me about a year, after I finished paying off the $14K of credit card debt I accumulated during my most recent period of brokeness, to start feeling like there wasn’t another shoe waiting to drop at any time. I know the shoe could still hit the ground, but I’m building up my savings account (and my career) in the hopes that it won’t — or, at least, that I can postpone the next round of brokeness for as long as possible.

Read the essay, and then let us know what you think.

Photo credit: Los viajes del Cangrejo, CC BY 2.0.

I am a middle-aged white woman living in Washington, D.C. I’m a college-educated writer who edits on the side. I have a cat.

I also get food stamps.

Surprised? To some degree, so am I. I’ve been on food assistance for a couple of years, and though I’m inarguably underemployed now, back when I first applied I had two relatively steady gigs that brought in a respectable amount of money — maybe not for D.C., but respectable in general. Housing costs in the area are sky-high, however, and my old first-floor, one-bedroom apartment in a modest garden-style building was sinking me. No amenities besides coin-operated laundry (four machines total); the Metro was a 20-minute walk. Not exactly luxury accommodations. It was the cheapest place I could find, but it was still busting my budget. So I qualified.

And I’ll be honest: I’ve loved every time I’ve slid my EBT card through a grocery store’s credit machine. The daughter of parents who grew up during the Depression, I have always been able to budget within an inch of my life, so feeling free to spend $2 on something that would have given me pause had I been paying cash was wonderful. That’s not to say I was wasteful. I still bought generic and loaded...

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash.

This is the slot where I usually do the “what’s your financial goal this week” post, but after reading your responses to last week’s Billfold LLC post, it looks like you’re getting a little bored with some of our daily check-in threads.

Since you requested more news posts and fewer share-your-goals-and-successes posts, I’ll gladly provide — so expect to see that change starting this week. We’ll still keep Do 1 Thing Thursday and Friday Estimate/Monday Check-In, since those were the original Billfold weekly threads — but the setting goals, sharing successes (and failures!), and financial questions posts will switch to once a month.

How does that sound?

Photo by Ghost Presenter on Unsplash.

We are now in a no-longer-net-neutral world — which I think we have to call “net-biased,” right? — and I’m curious how y’all are taking it.

As a quick recap of what this all means and what it might mean for the future, let’s go to Slate:

The repeal of the rules known as net neutrality, which essentially prohibit internet service providers from giving preferential treatment to certain websites, is officially set to take effect on Monday. Lawmakers and state officials are working to try to reinstate the rules shortly so the change may not be long-lived but that doesn’t change the fact that starting June 11, internet service providers will be much freer to block, speed up or slow down access to certain content.

Slate notes that ISPs probably won’t implement their net-biased freedoms all at once. Instead, they’ll slowly slow things down — giving us just enough time to forget how things used to be, and just enough frustration to be ready to pay extra for the “Facebook and FaceTime” package.

The Washington Post takes a slightly more optimistic stance, reminding us that ISPs won’t be allowed to take action on this new law without telling us:

Many Internet providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, have said they do not and will not block or slow content. Comcast has also said it does not block or slow...

Photo credit: Andrew E. Russell, CC BY 2.0.

It’s Monday, which means it’s time to check in with our weekend spending.

Last Friday, I estimated that I would spend $250 on dinners out and a ticket to Juneau’s Celebration festival. I ended up arriving in Juneau just in time to catch the festival’s closing procession, and didn’t need to buy a ticket. I did, however, spend $67.14 on food and $14.99 on a pair of earbuds to replace the pair that broke in Portland. (You know how you can tell when your earbuds are starting to wear out, but you keep using them because they mostly work, and you should probably replace them but you keep putting it off, and then they finally become unusable in the first 30 minutes of a three-hour bus ride between Portland and Seattle?)

I also spent $25 to check a box of books on the flight between Portland and Juneau, which was an expense I had planned for but forgot to estimate last Friday, and my Tello phone bill went through this weekend, so that was $23.20.

Total spending: $130.33.

How about you?



Photo credit: Steven Depolo, CC BY 2.0.

Last November, my husband quit his job as an engineer to start his own importing business from home, and our household income shrunk to my freelance writing wages. To cut costs, we moved from a San Francisco Bay Area suburb to another California suburb half-an-hour from Sacramento, and created a strict monthly budget so we could monitor every penny.

Besides our rent, our biggest cost was our weekly grocery budget, which went from haphazardly spending anywhere from $70-$100 to a non-negotiable $50. Gone were the random weeknight shopping trips for Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups, butter popcorn, and crystallized ginger cookies. Gone was the sporadic ordering in when we were too tired to cook dinner. Detailed shopping lists were essential now, along with weekly meal planning.

At first, fueled with a newfound energy for this minimal lifestyle, I would plan a different meal each day, pouring over Pinterest, Instagram, and food blogs for inspiration. It quickly became tiresome, trying to come up with five individual meals each week. I broke out my trusty Crock-Pot to try to remedy meal prep fatigue, but making huge batches of food to eat over several days just didn’t cut it. There are only so many days you can eat stewed lentils over rice before you begin to resent dinnertime...

Photo by paul mocan on Unsplash.

When I was younger, I was totally the person who would seek out a quiet corner of the airport so I could pretend to take a nap. I’d shut my eyes and imagine a world in which I actually fell asleep, and then I’d try to remember where I’d read the article that claimed lying down with your eyes closed is nearly as restful as sleeping.

But at a certain point, curling up on the carpet or turning three chairs into a bed started to feel a little embarrassing — and I couldn’t relax because I kept wondering if people were judging me for, like, taking up three chairs. If only there were a place I could go where nobody could see me! Somewhere quiet and enclosed, where I could charge my phone and my laptop without feeling guilty for hogging the outlets. Also, could it have Netflix?

You already know where I’m going with this, so here are the details: yes, this exists, yes, it’s called an Airpod (guess Apple didn’t trademark that one), and yes, it does have Netflix.

As Travel and Leisure reports:

The pods are a minimal private escape that look like futuristic drag racers. Inside, sleep-deprived passengers will find a plush chair that converts into a bed for naps.

Travelers can charge their devices, link up to a Wi-Fi connection and store...

Photo credit: mark byzewski, CC BY 2.0.

It’s Friday, which means it’s time to estimate our weekend spending.

Tonight, I’m reading from The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2 at Another Read Through in Portland (7 p.m. if you want to come!) and on Saturday I’m flying to Juneau, Alaska. I’ll be in Juneau for Celebration, a festival celebrating Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian culture, and I’ll also be doing a reading-and-music event with Marian Call and Laura Zahasky at Rainy Retreat on Sunday and teaching a class at 49 Writers on Monday.

All of this is to say that I don’t know exactly how much I’ll spend this weekend, since I’m guessing I’ll have dinner with friends on Friday and Saturday and maybe Sunday too. I’ll also need to get a Celebration ticket, which’ll cost $18. If I estimate $200 for the three dinners, plus Celebration, plus anything else that might come up… let’s say $250.

Total estimate: $250.

How about you?