Revealed! The IM Family’s 2014 Spending and Income

fat cat

Me, apparently, after such rampant spending this year.

Wow, what a year. I didn’t post that much during 2014, but I’m still here. The year 2014 was an eventful year in many ways, both good and bad. For the bad news, my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, and while it has spread to his liver, he has responded pretty well to chemotherapy. He could be here for a few more years, or his life could end in the next few months. One never knows. Life is a precious, fleeting thing.

Also on the bad-news front, my son – who is now two years old – was diagnosed early in 2014 with a visual disability called congenital nystagmus. Basically, his eyes twitch back and forth involuntarily, and while the condition is not tremendously debilitating, it will affect his vision for the rest of his life. Back in October he had a surgery (called the modified Kestenbaum-Anderson surgery for those interested) to improve his eyesight by moving his eye muscles in order to center his “best” vision straight in front of him. Time will tell how effective it was, but we’re optimistic.

On to good news: my wife and I had another child this year, a little girl this time. In a sense, we’re living the dream: a married couple owning a house with a two-car garage out in the suburbs, two kids (a boy and girl), and a white-picket fence. Just kidding about that last part. Our fence is made out of flimsy pine wood. Overall, we feel like we have now replaced ourselves, and (at the moment) do not plan to have any more children. We’ll see. Continue reading

Revealed! The IM Family’s 2013 Spending and Income

Bunny Lawn Mower

A new level of frugality

One year ago – as part of a New Year’s declamation – I challenged myself to throw down the gauntlet and track every penny flowing in and out of my wallet. Since I garnered an interest in money back in 2007, I’ve tried to live a generally frugal lifestyle. However, tracking every transaction was something I had never done before. Would it make a difference in our household spending, or would it just be a complete pain in the ass? Continue reading

New Year Challenge: Track All Spending for a Year

The time has come for me to throw down the gauntlet and issue a challenge to myself. Don’t call it a resolution – the timing as it relates to the new year is merely a coincidence, as I’ve been thinking about this for many months now. Still, the timing is impeccable as a year is an easy-to-measure chunk, so if you insist on calling it a resolution, I can live with that.

gauntlet thrown down

Gravity has taken its toll on this gauntlet.

Here it is: For the next year, I will keep track of all expenses so that I can see exactly how much I spend in a typical year. As an addition, I plan to do it all manually. Tools like Mint and Yodlee can tally up spending reports for any time-period that you wish, and useful as those are, they’re not good enough for my New Year resolution challenge. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Mortgages

Two Houses

This is a personal story of how much mortgage debt I have and how I acquired it. Ordinarily I do not post numbers about my assets or debts, but I’m comfortable making these known. I don’t necessarily intend for there to be a moral to this story; it’s just an objective tale of how I took on the debt that I still have. You, dear reader, probably have your own tale as well, and I’d love to hear it sometime.

This is a long post, so if you’re impatient, skip to the bottom. Otherwise, stay awhile and listen…. Continue reading

So I Went to the Movies Yesterday…

Yesterday, my wife and I went to the movies. Sounds like a typical Saturday, right? Wrong. Whereas I’m a pretty big frequenter of venues such as art galleries, theatrical productions, concert music, and even independent movie theatres, I very rarely go to the mainstream cinema. VERY rarely. In fact, the last movie I watched in a mainstream movie theatre was Lord of the Rings: Two Towers. And that was nearly seven years ago, back in December 2002.

So, what made me break my mainstream-movie-going fast and venture forth to my nearest cinema? Zombieland? Heck no! I’m talking about a film so powerful that even the mere mention of the filmmaker’s name is enough to send some people into fits of erratic and aberrant spasms. And no, I’m still not talking about Zombieland!

I’m talking about Capitalism: A Love Story, by Michael Moore (cue the “Ack! Err! Blahr!”). It’s a comedy… and a tragedy. Above all, it’s a documentary about the failure of capitalism that we all witnessed in 2008. Because like it or not, that’s exactly what we saw. Many people have passionately argued that communism, though it may look appealing on paper, ultimately fails because it does not take into consideration human greed and corruption. I would point out that capitalism ultimately fails for the exact same reason.

When a free-market, sink-or-swim, only-the-strong survive system is brought to its knees by greed and corruption and has to turn to the federal government for a bailout funded by the taxpayers, that’s called a failure of the entire system. When many of the same banks who were rescued then turn around and slash credit lines, raise interest rates, and gorge themselves on newly added fees, that’s called a slap in the face.

Then again, this post is not meant to be a review of Moore’s new movie. Yes, I did enjoy the film, and yes, I’m glad that I chose to drive to the theatre and spend a whopping $9 per ticket to watch it. That was my choice, and I’m glad I did so. Capitalism: A Love Story is a movie that all of us should be able to enjoy, regardless of any political party affiliations.

Moore’s greatest problem, however, is that he is Michael Moore, and people will pooh-pooh him and his movies no matter the topic. I seem to recall lots of outrage and ire across the board over TARP and AIG last year, and yet many of these same people who railed against TARP, AIG, Citi, and the other too-big-to-fail crooks now rail against Michael Moore for… railing against TARP and those same Wall Street fat-cats! Strange.

That’s just the way it is, I suppose. Michael Moore makes a movie, and people get outraged over it without even bothering to watch it. Moore could make a movie in praise of Ronald Reagan and how tax cuts will be the saving grace of America, and those same detractors will ridicule and try to discredit it. Oh well.

Speaking of greed and corruption…

On a different note, before heading to the movie theatre, my wife and I swung by a nearby mall. I’m not a very good consumer – I haven’t been inside a mall since Fall 2004… seriously. Anyway, while heading into the mall, I saw something that really made me scratch my head. Take a look at this photo. Notice anything odd about it? Yes, this is in Texas.

handicapped hummer

Don’t see it? Look closer. See the handicap wheelchair tag hanging in the rearview mirror? Wow! While I concur that it’s entirely possible for a handicapped person to drive (or ride in) a Hummer… I don’t know… something just seems odd about it.

And here’s another thing – I mentioned that I had not been to a mainstream movie theatre since 2002. One thing I DID remember is that the price for the junk food at the concession stand is outrageous, even criminal. Nothing could prepare me, though, for exactly just how expensive it was. Here’s a cell phone snap:

AMC concession prices1

Nearly four dollars for a small drink?! Almost five dollars for a small popcorn?! Pardon the sophomoric interjection, but LOLwut seems to satisfactorily express my confusion and incredulity. Oh, but it gets better….

AMC concession prices2

This picture is a little harder to read, but c’mon, $7.50 for a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut? Or, for the same price, you can get a few chicken tenders. What a deal! Want a regular hot dog (not a Coney)? That will be four dollars, please. How about an Icee? Oh, it’s $4.50. An ICEE! It’s just ice with some artificial flavoring! At least a pretzel is the same price. Holy $*@! That pretzel better tap dance and yodel for me before I suck it into my body and wash it down with a small bottle of water ($3.75).

If you can’t guess, neither my wife nor I bought anything. Since we were at the theatre a few minutes early, we watched with mixed amusement and horror as LOTS of other people did. Make that a large popcorn since I can get a free refill on it! It’s the best deal! Just slide your credit card. It will be alright.

Who knows when I will decide to go back to a mainstream movie theatre? Maybe another seven years? No matter how long I wait, I will be curious to see how much more inflated the prices will be for tickets and junk food. Maybe, just maybe, the skyrocketing prices will finally hit a breaking point, causing consumers to stop attending en masse, which will then result in massive profit losses for the movie industry. Will they scurry to the federal government and beg for a taxpayer bailout of their own? If they do, I will preemptively suggest that we consider calling it CRAP (the Cinematic Resource Alleviation Plan).

Life Update – New Job, New Location, Old Lifestyle

Mr. IM is back! In the last few months, a lot has happened. When last I posted, I was Mr. IM – homeowner, starving artist, graduate student and teaching assistant at a major university in the Midwest, doing everything I could to keep the bills paid on an embarrassingly low TA salary. When I say low, I mean it: there are people who earn a lot more in interest/dividends each month than I brought home as salary. 🙂 Though we were poor, my wife and I were happy with our surroundings and with one another.

Now, I’m Mr. IM (Dr. IM actually, but whatever) – college professor, hungry artist (but no longer starving), and renter of an apartment in the great state of Texas.

So, since this past July, I’ve packed up all my belongings in the house I own, moved nearly 1,000 miles away, and started a new job and a new life in TX. Continue reading

Desperately Seeking a Job

I generally try to post information that is useful and helpful to other people, but now and then I need to reserve a post for an outpouring of personal information and emotion. This is one of those posts.

I admit: I’m downright nervous about jobs, or in this case, the lack thereof. As some of you may remember, I’m a graduate student at the very end of my doctorate. I fully expect to be hooded in May, and naturally that’s a cause for rejoicing! My spirits are completely dampened, however, by the abysmal number of jobs available in my field.

Since the second day of my freshman year of college, I knew I wanted to be a college professor. As a personal anecdote, I actually applied to college as a Pre-Med major, but changed my mind on the first day. Since then, I have poured countless time and energy and have dedicated my life to pursuing that goal. I took no breaks between degrees and have spent 10 years in school to earn this doctorate and finally land that dream job.

And for what?

Entry-level professorships in my field start around $40,000 per year. Doctorate required. Yeah, I’m in the Arts. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me much that the average salaries for professors in the Arts are so embarrassingly low versus other fields, especially science and math. Just don’t get me started on coaches’ salaries! 🙂

Speaking of which, I love this particular comic (brought to you by PHD Comics):phd102008s

Yep, that tiny little bump of a yellow bar that represents Grad Students is my category – except that my salary is significantly lower than the given amount. Sigh.

I knew when I went into the Arts that I wasn’t doing it for the money. I love what I do, and as long as I can survive and make a living doing it, I don’t care that my salary is at the bottom of the collegiate totem pole. No resentments here. Seriously.

The problem is that I haven’t yet landed a full-time professorship job. Believe me, I’m looking, and I don’t like what I see!

Universities tend to only hire professors once a year, and I monitored the job market last year even though I knew my dissertation would not be finished. I even applied for some openings, and despite my lack of complete dissertation, I had two on-campus interviews. I enjoyed the process, but ultimately didn’t get either job. Phooey.

No matter. My current university decided to hire me as adjunct faculty. It sounds great, and I definitely appreciate it, but the salary puts me far below the poverty line here (I’m a mere Lecturer – part time). I still have a decent chunk of emergency savings, so I can survive, but I desperately need a job lined up for the fall since my adjunct contract runs out in May.

All this brings me to the crux of the issue: there are almost NO jobs available in Academia for my field right now. Compared to last year, at best there is one-quarter the number of openings. Even that may be an optimistic observation. Of the few jobs that ARE currently available, most of their announcements have a disclaimer that reads: Position subject to budgetary approval. In other words, there’s no guarantee the University will even approve the job. Yikes.

Times are tough, no doubt. Signs of the recession are real. Perhaps most of us know at least one person who has been laid off in the last few months. I do.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend of mine (a math professor) at my University. The first thing he asked me was – Is the job market as bad for you as it is for my math grad students? Yes, professor. Probably worse since the Arts tend to be the first to have their budgets axed. At the end of our sober chat, he said – I certainly don’t envy you. In fact, I’m just glad to still have my job. We weren’t even allowed to replace a professor who DIED last year! Stunningly sad.

At this point in my life, I just want a job. Any job. I may be getting the “Dr.” label in front of my name soon, but I’m not above doing whatever it takes to keep my mortgage and other bills current. Yes, that includes working at any job that only requires a high-school diploma. While I hope I can land a job that can utilize my training, I’m not too good to stock shelves if it really comes to that. Hey, I’ll be the most artistic and educated shelf stocker out there! 🙂

Seriously, before I end this post in misery, there IS a little light at the end of the tunnel. Within the last couple of weeks, I’ve had two phone interviews. I’m crossing my fingers, and with a little luck, maybe one of them will hire me.

For people in a similar situation, or who have recently been laid off, I have no words of wisdom. All I can say is – don’t lose hope. Despite my current job woes, I have strong faith in the will of humanity. We’ve been through much worse than this, and we will survive. This too shall pass.

As long as I don’t have to feature myself in my own Bankrupt Man series…. :-)