Income vs. Quality of Life

In trying to determine what classes I wanted to teach in the fall, I found myself confronted with two very different options:

  1. Teaching three times a week in the morning.
  2. Teaching twice a week in the evening.

Each presents its pros and cons. Option #1 has 33% more commute, and I'd have to get up earlier than I'd prefer, but it leaves my afternoons and nights free for yoga, the band, and maximizing my hours teaching karate. Option #2 has less commute, and the hours better suit my sleeping habits, but it cuts into my other interests and responsibilities.

When faced with a logistical conundrum, I turn to the most practical man I know: my dad. He was happy to calculate my gas mileage, ask the important questions, and help me determine which option would work best for me.

He emphasized that I ultimately needed to consider income versus quality of life. I'll be making the same amount of money at the college regardless of which option I choose, but option #1—despite having an additional $16 per week in gas expenses, according to my dad's calculations—allows me to make more income at my other job because it keeps my evenings free. Option #2 may allow me to sleep later, but its schedule restricts the income I can make outside the college.

The issue comes down to money versus happiness. Is it better to make a lot of money and be exhausted and/or miserable, or is it better to make less money and be happier? I've done both, and the best choice is something in the middle.

I don't think either option is necessarily better or worse. Because I've never taught college before, considerable experimentation will be required before I can determine what sort of schedule best fits my financial and emotional needs. It was a tough call, but at this point, my priority is to maximize income; an increased income will actually improve my quality of life. As such, option #1 feels like the best choice. If it ends up being terrible, I can modify my teaching schedule next semester.

It seems unfortunate that questions of money and questions of happiness are so frequently intertwined, but to a certain extent, one does inform the other. Hopefully, a middle ground isn't too difficult to engineer.

But when in doubt, always ask Dad.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below. Perhaps follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

The ZenGeek Podcast #004: "Green Paper"

Episode IV:

In this episode of the ZenGeek Podcast, Andrew and Jeffrey brave the topic of money. They discuss whether it's possible to walk away from money, spending on things versus investing in experiences, and their respective views on making a living on the web. They also announce the winner of the Static Made t-shirt contest, as well as touch on the Olympics, menu bars, and Jeffrey's impending daughter!

We've gotten some great feedback on our first few episodes (see Mike Vardy's and Rob Boone's very kind words). Thank you to everyone who's listened So far!

If you haven't taken a moment to click a rating or leave a review for us on iTunes, please do! It helps new listeners find us, and it's the best way to support the show.

Listen, rate, and/or leave a review on iTunes.
Listen on our website.

Favorite Apps: Saver

As you may recall, I’m tracking all of my expenses for the month of May.

For the past week, I’ve been using Saver for iPhone.

Saver lets you set budgets, input your expenses, and view your spending history in graph and list views. It’s beautifully designed, and the aesthetics remind me a bit of Tweetbot, only with a lot more black.

The budget view is simple, but functional. Saver lets you select a monthly budget and then shows you a progress bar displaying how much money you have left for the month. The default view shows you what you’ve spent today, but you can easily swipe between days, or tap the calendar icon to jump to a specific date.

A central component of the app is the input screen, where you can record any and all of your expenses. Saver gives you fifteen categories of expenses, such as Utilities, Auto, Vacation, Payments, Wardrobe, and more. Within each of these categories are six sub-categories. For example, if you double tap on the Payments category, you can select Rent, Subscription, Taxes, Insurance, Mortgage, or Education. If none of those work for you, you can swipe to the left to add your own category. In addition to the category tags, you can add notes and photos to each expense.

Once you’ve input some data, the graph view shows you your expenses in a lovely, color-coded chart. You can tap on a specific type of expense to see all of your spending in that category, and swiping between week, month, and year views is easy.

Saver comes with a handful of useful settings, my favorite of which is the ability to choose your startup screen. For me, 90% of the time I open the app, I’m looking to record an expense, so I set my startup screen to always open with the input view. You can also choose from what I believe is any currency on the planet, and you can set a pass code for added security. Saver also offers its own personal automatic data backup to their servers, although I haven’t bothered to try this feature yet.

The only thing I’ve noticed Saver lacking is the ability to input income. That’s not a concern for me right now, but it may motivate me to check out other apps in the future.

All in all, though, I don’t feel compelled to try any other finance apps right now. Saver is beautiful, simple, functional, and intuitive. I recommend it.

You can buy Saver for the discounted price of $1.99 on the App Store.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below. Perhaps follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

Year of the Habit: May

Mayday! Mayday!

Welcome to the fifth installment of The Year of the Habit 2012.

As is customary, let’s review the year so far before revealing May’s habit.

  • January: Started flossing every day.
  • February: Stopped biting my nails.
  • March: Attempted to read every day. Mostly unsuccessful. Currently reading Buddhism Plain & Simple and The Art of Expressing the Human Body.
  • April: Health nut month. With the help of the Seinfeld productivity method, I was able to chart my healthy and unhealthy days quite easily. I had six unhealthy days in April, all of which occurred on either a Saturday or a Sunday, and most of which were special occasions (birthdays, christenings, etc.). My longest streak was seven healthy days in a row. Twenty-four healthy days out of thirty total means I was Primal 80% of the time, which I’m happy with overall. Coincidentally, that ratio exemplifies the 80/20 principle, which suggests that shooting for perfection usually lands you somewhere around an 80% success rate. I would have preferred it to be slightly higher, but 80/20 is a good balance, and visually representing my eating habits visually was a valuable experience. Weekends are obviously the most challenging days to eat well, while I’m able to remain in healthy mode throughout the week. In general, I’m considering April a success.

Bonus Habits

In addition to my monthly goals, I’ve also adopted some bonus habits that have made a huge difference in my 2012 so far. These include:

As I’ve said before, these unplanned habits speak to the power and momentum of small changes.

What’s Next? Dollar Dollar Bills, Y’all.

May is money month.

I’m actually a little nervous about this one, because numbers are evil, but it’s a step I need to take. My thesis is very close to done, and soon my singular focus will be on ways to make sufficient income.

But what makes one’s income “sufficient”? Well, that’s what I intend to figure out.

During the month of May, I’m going to be tracking all of my expenses.

This habit will provide me with several useful bits of insight:

  1. By knowing how much I spend in a month, I’ll know approximately how much I need to make to live.
  2. I’ll be able to identify needless spending that has hitherto gone unnoticed.
  3. I’ll be more mindful about how I spend my money knowing that it’s going to be recorded.
  4. I’ll be able to use my spending data to develop a budget for the future.

Of course, I’ll be using an iOS app to track all of my expenses. I’m going to start with Saver, but I also plan on testing out a few others. I’ll let you know of my favorites.

May is going to be a challenge in the sense that this is one habit I don’t love. Unlike trying to eat healthy or write every day, which were fun and enjoyable, I’m not looking forward to seeing where my money goes. But, it’s necessary, and I’m sure the experience will be enlightening.

And that’s what we’re all about, isn’t it?

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below. Also, you should follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

My Student Loans Are Hilarious

I sat down with my mom the other night to discuss my student loans. Before that conversation, I knew I had students loans, but I didn't know exactly how many student loans we were talking about, and how much money those loans entailed.

I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I owe the government an absurd amount of money for my little ol' bachelor's degree. A degree that — so far — has yielded me little in the way of riches.

I don't regret my undergraduate education — not for one second. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Still, being faced with a huge amount of debt isn't exactly great news.

But, it does make me laugh.

That's right. I laugh in the face of my (let's call it) $50,000 debt.

At this point in my life, I can't even imagine what $50,000 looks like. It's not even a real number. It's not like I went to the bank and they gave me a truckload of cash, which I brought to college and handed over to the Admissions Office. I've never even seen $1,000 in real life, let alone the $50,000 for which I'm supposedly responsible. They're fifty thousand imaginary dollars, which floated invisibly through the air, landed safely... somewhere, and persuaded someone to give me an education.

It's really quite silly.

In some ways, the fact that I've never come in physical contact with these fifty thousand dollars detaches me from the emotional burden of paying them back.

Imagine you were carrying a $100 bill around in your wallet, and when you went to reach for it, the money was gone. That experience would hurt because you were physically attached to the money. You used to be able to see it, feel it, and you knew it was there. And now it's gone. You feel bad about it because you miss that hundred dollar bill! You miss it a lot.

But how can you miss something that was never physically there to begin with? I feel no sense of ownership over these fifty thousand dollars. Clearly, they belong to someone else, and I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow them for several years. I don't feel the sense of loss that I would feel if someone took $100 out of my pocket.

Now, you could argue that paying for something you can't see hurts. You can rationalize spending $20 on a DVD because, when you hand the clerk a twenty-dollar bill, they hand you a movie in exchange. That's fair.

But in reality, paying for college is no different. You're paying for an experience. It's like coughing up $50 for a concert ticket. You're not really taking anything home with you, but you are getting a whole lot of memories, and you're coming out a different person on the other side.

While $50,00 is an obscene and unfathomable amount of money, I'm not sure I can — nor would I want to — put a price on my college experience. Sure, you can put a price on classes, housing, and meal plans, but you can't put a price on the experience.

My student debt isn't going anywhere. All I can do is keep it in perspective. It'll all get paid off eventually. What's the worst that could happen? No one has ever been executed for having student loans.

Do I owe the government more money than I ever thought possible? Yes.

Is it ridiculous? Yes.

Can I change it? Not really.

So is it worth getting worked up over? No.

Are most people in the same situation? Yes.

Am I going to pay it off little by little, like everyone else? Yup.

When I'm told I have to pay back fifty thousand imaginary dollars because someone somewhere decided that's how much an education costs, I just shrug and say, "Well, that's unfortunate, but alright."

I'm thousands of dollars in debt; all I can do is laugh about it.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter.