One more week!

In 7 days I’ll become “Mrs. Woodpecker”.

Kind of a crazy thought. There has been so  much going on here that really it is impossible to list it all but here are a few highlights:

1. We’re going on a cruise for our honeymoon. Turns out that last minute cruise deals are pretty dang inexpensive. Flights? Not so much, but it wasn’t too bad. All in all we are getting a 4-day cruise with an oceanview room (non-obstructive) plus airfare for two for about $2,000. Add in a little bit for airport to cruise port transfers and 3 days of excursions and we’ll probably add to that a little.

2. We’re going on a roadtrip. My cousin is graduating from high school in Salt Lake City on June 6th. Her brother is getting married in Salt Lake City on June 15th. So we’re flying out there, renting a car, and in between the two events taking a camping road trip through Utah. We’re visiting Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, Bryce National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. Very excited about this, should be a ton of fun.

3. I had to buy a new laptop. My home computer had been a brick for about a year. And my work computer was out of commission for a week. I still had to…yanno… work. So I ended up buying a new computer. It cost me around $550 for the thing, as I got an older Windows 7 model (all of my work stuff requires Windows 7 and I’m loathe to make the switch to Windows 8 until I absolutely have to). I’ve also decided that “the cloud” is the most amazing thing ever if you have to switch computers. It used to be when you got a new computer it felt like you were starting your life over. This time I just downloaded Dropbox and Chrome and my files were all in place and so were my browser bookmarks. I was up and working within 30 minutes of pulling the computer out of the box. Wam bam, thank you, ma’am!

4. I got a new job. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my old job. Except… I hated that I wasn’t getting paid nearly enough, and I haven’t had retirement benefits in the past 2 years. Oh yeah, and I have to do things that we really should have a lab tech to do (order chemicals, prep labs, maintain MSDS sheets, etc). So another college just 3 miles away (and much larger) had a position opened and I applied. I had a phone interview, was called back for an on-campus interview, and voila! they offered me the position. My 9 month contract with the new school is the same pay as my 11 month contract with the old school. Which means my per-month salary will be higher. In addition new school has lab assistants that prep the labs and take care of all of that so I don’t have to. In addition they give me a 7% retirement (I’m required a match, of course). The school is larger, so I’ll have more colleagues which I’m really looking forward to. Having only 1 other chemist it has been difficult to “talk shop”. I like bouncing ideas off of a variety of people so I think it will work well. Oh yes, all of this and my teaching load will be LESS per semester. There will be some drawbacks, like I’ll miss the small community of the old school, I’ll miss the relationships I’ve build with students and colleagues there, and I’ll miss having a lot of autonomy in how my classes are run since I’m the only one teaching them. Overall though I think this transition will be better for me in the long run. While I’m certain I will make this transition, I have not signed a contract yet at the new school (they don’t issue until May), so I won’t be alerting my current school to my plans until our renewal contracts come in or I sign at the new school, which ever happens first.

Obligatory 2013 Goal Post

Mr. Woodpecker and I sat down yesterday and made our goals for the 2013 year. We’re very excited about accomplishing these goals in the next 12 months (or at least making significant progress on them).

  1. Pay off credit card debt by April 30th, 2013. This is going pretty well so far, we have about $8,500 more to go. We’ll definitely be half way there by the end of this month. This goal will have to be accomplished before we can do the rest of the goals. Step in the next 48 hours: Worked at Kohls and paid almost $600 off within 2 days of making the goal.
  2. Have wedding with family present completely debt free. We want a debt free wedding. And a kick ass honeymoon (see step #5). I think we’ve finally reached a decision about our wedding: Cancun wedding at an all-inclusive. The ceremony is free, the reception is free. All we’ll have to pay for is airfare, room, and photography. It is more expensive for our guests, but it is more affordable for us. And we’re giving everyone we want an “out” with the option to celebrate with us at our pot-luck reception at our house afterwards. Step in the next 48 hours: Contact the all-inclusive to see about reserving a date.
  3. Build fence for backyard (debt free). We want to put a fence in the backyard for the dogs. This has always been the thing that we wanted to do as our first “home project”.  Step in the next 48 hours: Looking in to doggy door options online, since we already have the fence guy we want to use and an approximate cost ($1,500).
  4. Set up 10% of both our incomes going to retirement, set up wills, make sure beneficiaries on retirement and life insurance are updated, make sure amounts on life insurance are appropriate. I feel like since we’re getting married this is pretty obvious that we need to do this.  Step in the next 48 hours: Find ourselves a marital attorney for wills, discuss pre-nups, etc. Contact financial adviser to set up meeting (free service provided by my employer).  Retirement and life insurance above our work minimums will be set up after goal #1.
  5. Go on kick ass vacation (A.K.A. – a honeymoon) debt free. See comments on goal #2. We’re doing this!

We Won!

The place where Mr Woodpecker and I were taking out Financial Peace University class was having a Facebook contest to send people to see Dave Ramsey in Nashville. We had to “Like” the company’s Facebook page and then write a comment about how FPU has changed our lives. And guess what! Mr Woodpecker and I won!

Here is the YouTube video of the call. If you listen all the way through the call (once they get Mr Woodpecker on the phone) you’ll see why I love him so much. I’m so excited to go and meet Dave Ramsey. What do you say to someone who has had such a large impact on your life?

Teaching Over the Summer!

I heard back late Thursday from the Dean of the Science department from the local community college and they’ve offered me the teaching position. I’m super excited!

I’ll get paid $3,500 for the 8 week class.

If my class makes at my school I’ll also get another $2,000 minimum (up to $3,000 depending on the number of students). If less than 4 enroll it will get cancelled and I get nada. Boo.

I’m pretty stoked though that for SURE I’ll get an extra $3,500 this summer. This will be COMPLETELY on top of my normal pay.

However, this does mean that my super awesome road trip will be cut from the summer agenda.

Mr Hive and I are planning a long weekend road trip to Texas to visit his parents in July. Then I’ll have 2.5 weeks off before my contract begins at my school. So I may still take my shortened version during that time, but my dad is also talking about the two of us going scuba diving during that time. Which I would MUCH rather do. I LOVE diving!

Knowing my dad though there is only a 50% chance that going diving will materialize. However, I would love to take a road trip to the keys and spend 4-5 days diving before the school starts.

I’m getting really excited for the summer. Just a few more weeks of classes!!

Road Trip! ?

I’m thinking of doing something a little crazy in July. I’m thinking of driving around the country (possibly with my dog).

I’m looking at going around for 3 weeks in July from Kansas City around the western part of the United States.

Here is where I’m thinking:

Taking a slow meander around the country, visit my friends and relatives in this part of the country, camping along the way, doing a lot of hiking, sight seeing, and reflecting. I feel like I’m turning in to an adult quicker than I would like to imagine and it may be the last time I have the lack of responsibilities to do a solo road trip around the country.

Possibility #1

I’d be stopping by my friends in Minneapolis, my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Salt Lake City, my grandma outside of Yosemite, my good friends in San Diego for a few days, my Aunt and cousins in Phoenix, and my step-dad in Roswell.

The entire journey I’m looking at doing is ~5,300 miles.

Possibility #2

Another option is to do more of a National Parks tour and skip my family that lives in Arizona and New Mexico and the friends in Mineapolis.

The total mileage for this trip would be 4,051. About 1,300 miles less, which is pretty significant when you’re looking at time in a car. I’d be trading time in the car and seeing friends and family with time at some national parks.

Possibility #3

Then there is the much shortened version in that I don’t go visit my grandma. I think that she would kill me if I was doing a road trip and didn’t visit her, but this would shorten the trip quite substantially.

This shortened version of the road trip would be 2,676 miles. That’s half the mileage of the original plan.

So those are the options. There are still quite a few things to consider.

1. Whether I will take the dog. I can have the dog on campsites in national parks – but I wouldn’t be able to take him on trails or leave him in the car since it will be the dead of summer. I think it would be fun to have him and would be cheaper since I wouldn’t have to board him or rely on Mr Hive to watch him (which he would if I asked), but it may dampen some of the fun of the trip if I can’t do day hikes with the puppy.

2. Price of gas vs. length of trip. With the price of gas going up, this is definitely a factor. My car gets 30 miles to the gallon. If gas goes up to $4 per gallon over the summer (not unreasonable) I’d be looking at $700 for gas for option #1, $540 for gas for option #2, or $357 for option #3. Obviously the longer the trip the more I get to see, the more gas costs, also the shorter the trip. Financially, I’d imagine that the shorter trip would be the best option, but I’d also miss out on seeing a lot of friends and family.

3. The wear and tear on my car – should I instead rent? My little car is no spring chicken. However I will be getting it a 120k mile service and new tires in June-ish. So it should be in tip top shape for the trip. That doesn’t mean though that I should add another 2,000-5,000 miles to my car. For $400 I can rent a car for two weeks that is comparable to what I drive now.

Lots of things to consider, but I’m really excited about the prospect of doing a road trip in July. If only Mr Hive could take off a week or two and go with me on the shortened trip… that would be the ultimate fun. =)

Which vacation would you choose? And what things along these routes am I missing that I need to see?

Summer Plans

I know it is really early to start thinking about summer. But the idle hands I’ve felt the past week has made me realize that I seriously need to make sure that I have a plan for this summer. Three months off – nothing to do – recipe for disaster! My idle hands won’t be able to contain my boredom. And my budget can’t afford a 3 month trip around South America like I’d like to do. 😉

My goals are to both occupy my time AND to earn some extra money to pay off my debt. So I’ve started coming up with some options, from more likely to least likely:

  1. Sit at home bored all summer. This seems the most likely if I don’t figure out some other plan for myself in the summer. Bonus: I have access to a pool just 1/2 a block away.
  2. Teach a summer class locally. In February I’ll start sending out emails to the local community colleges asking if they have any positions (click here to see  how to get an adjunct position at a community college). I can offer a class at my school, but I have to get 7 students in it to be able to teach it. The chance of that happening is low from what other faculty members have told me. But not impossible. I can also see about helping with some of the adult education classes we offer. They fill up very quick and I have sat in the one I could help teach and know that I’m perfectly able to teach the science portion of that class. So there are quite a few options here that I’ll explore.
  3. Research position. I’ve had a few people offer to have me in their labs over the summer. One in Kansas – a quick half hour drive away. Another in Ohio (one of my collaborators that I’ve published two papers with so far). The last in Switzerland. These would be good career decision moves, but I’d likely not get paid. The would be mainly to develop projects for writing grants that we’d later get funding for – and thus I’d LATER get paid for. No immediate financial gain, but high potential for long term career growth. The last two (Ohio and Switzerland) would cost me quite a bit since I’d have to stay somewhere else, pay for travel expenses, and find something to do with the dog. But they’re still not terrible options. Also, Switzerland I’d be able to do some vacationing on the weekends and work with one of my close friends who is an Assistant Professor there. Two huge bonuses, even though not cost effective in the least.
  4. Grade AP exams. Thanks to the inspiration from TeacHer Finance on this one, I submitted my application to the AP testing center to be a grader for the Chemistry exam. My application was accepted for review, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be chosen to actually grade. If I do get selected I’ll spend June 12 – 18 in sunny Daytone, FL.  I’d get my travel reimbursed and room and board for the time I was there. Also, a stipend – TeacHer got $1,200 for grading Human Geography.
  5. Random job. I could try for some random job in Kansas City over the summer. I could renew my life guarding certification. Work some retail gig for minimum. Something, oh something… Just to keep busy and give me a few extra bucks.
  6. Teaching position at a community college in another location. One way to vacation is to do a working vacation. I am thinking I could apply for an adjunct position at a school in a place where I would also like to vacation in my “off time” – I’m thinking Florida for scuba diving or California to stay with my friends for a while or even Connecticut to hang out with my dear friend Okturn Delmoniq. The salary I get for teaching would pay for my housing while I’m there and I can use my normal “living expenses” money to pay for touristy things. It would be a lot more difficult to get an adjunct position in a place I don’t live – but since I have contacts in San Diego already it wouldn’t be impossible there (I’ve taught at 4 different schools there already).
  7. Summer dive master position. I’ve mentioned on this blog that I’m a Dive Master. It is one of my passions and something that I wish I had more money to invest in to. I’d love to take 2-3 vacations a year dedicated to diving, but in recent years have only been able to manage a trip every other year. I could take this free summer opportunity to find myself a summer Dive Master position. This is essentially the same idea as getting a teaching position at a vacation destination, but I’d probably get paid less, work harder – AND get a great tan. Also, I’d get my fill of under water adventures which sounds pretty awesome to me.
  8. Plan and successfully execute a bank heist. With three months of non-stop planning I think I may be able to successfully find a way to rob a bank with no traces left behind. This is both profitable and will keep me occupied. Please understand – I’m fully joking about this. =)

So there are the options folks – I have a lot of avenues to pursue and will probably try all of them with an equal amount of gumption (with the exceptions of #1 and #8) to see which ones work out to be the best for me.

I talked with BF about a lot of these options today at lunch and he (of course) preferred the ones that involved me staying close. And while I would like to stay near just because it is CHEAPER and closer to him, that doesn’t mean that I feel exclusively like that’s what I want to do. He also commented that he had been thinking that if we did ever decide to have kids that he would definitely have to be the one to stay home with them since he doesn’t have issues going stir crazy like I do. He’s thinking about us having kids? How… cute?

Idle Hands

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One of perks of being in academia is time off. I get a month off over Christmas break. I get three months off during the summer. Yes, I still have some things that I need to do, like prepare for the next semester. Preview text books. Etc. But  without having to go in to the office, meet with students, prepare lectures, go to meetings, ect. In short, I have about two full days of work to do in the period of a month.

This sounds great – in theory. But lemme tell you, all the time in the world and absolutely no responsibilities can be a huge pain in the ass.

I am sitting in my pajamas reading blogs in my bed until 1pm. Then I fix myself a PB&J sandwich and play CityVille while watching Netflix until I get hungry for dinner. Then I’ll go take a shower, wonder what to make for dinner, go buy something to eat. Fix it for BF and I and we’ll sit on the couch doing whatever (movies, TV, videogames, board games) in the evening. In short, I’m doing nothing… All. Day. Long.

Yes, this is a dream…. for about two days. After day three I started getting anxious. After day four I started getting a little crazy. By day five I was turning in to a desperate housewife. I started focusing my thoughts on placating my boredom with shopping (mainly groceries and Christmas gifts). Planning menus and then being angry when my sister or BF didn’t want one of the things I fixed. Focusing on every little thing around the house that needed to be done. Why or WHY did my sister not fold that towel the proper way? In short, I have gone slightly nuts and not like myself in the least. I can totally see how easy it would be for me to fall in to a desperate, depressed housewife with little to no time or effort.

I’ve realized two things:

  1. I  absolutely will have to find myself a job over the summer. I can barely keep myself sane for a week currently, there is no way I’d survive an entire summer.
  2. I need to keep myself busy now. I have quite a few different things I want to work on. So I’ve decided that each day I’m going to give myself a task to do and I can’t “veg” until my task is complete. That way I won’t do the “I’ll put it off till later” routine since I have “all the time in the world.”

So a few ideas of what I need to do each day are as follows:

  • Always make sure to wake up at a reasonable time. 9am at the latest. Also, go to bed before midnight.
  • Each day work on something for one of my classes. Write syllabi, prepare lecture material, prepare online class pages, work on webpage. One of those things a day should take an hour or two of work on the week days.
  • Go running every day with Jack. If it is icy or snowy then go to the gym to run.
  • Read at least 100 pages in a book – I’ve gotten way too far behind in my pleasure reading and I miss it desperately.
  • Don’t turn on the tv or screw around websites until the above are done.

I thought having all of this time off would be awesome, but without the money to go on vacation with my time off, life is very, very boring… and who I become with idle hands is also a little frightening!

Impromptu Road Trip!

My dearest friend Okturn Delmoniq is helping move some of his friends to Memphis, Tennessee. Since this is within driving distance from me I’m going to take a road trip to go see him (and his friends!) Considering Okturn lives in Connecticut, any opportunity to visit him within a day’s drive or less it totally worth it to me.

It wasn’t really a planned trip, but I have enough money to reasonably do it. I’m just excited to get to see him – since I haven’t since I was at the conference in August.

For those of you keeping track, I’ve ventured in the past year on weekend excursions to Indianapolis, Chicago, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and now Memphis. Those of you with decent map skills should be able to triangulate me from all that info I’d imagine. =)

My goal is to take some PB&J stuff with me for food as well as some chips. And eat my own stuff as much as possible. Eating out will probably be a little difficult to avoid on Sunday, but I’ll try my darndest! I’m putting a budget on myself including gas, hotel, daycare, food and outings of $250. We’ll see how that goes!

Tons of Posting! – Vacation with my Sister

Right now my sister is 16. In 2 years she’ll graduate high school. While I was in Europe the past few weeks I kept thinking about her and about how much she would have enjoyed the whole trip.

So after thinking about it, I decided that when she graduates I’m going to take her on a vacation, just the two of us. Hostels and backpacking and the whole nine yards. I’ll make up a budget (probably around $4-5,000 for the two of us) and we’ll plan a trip for however long we can go on that budget. I told her that she can choose where, so obviously if we go somewhere cheaper we can stay longer and if she chooses somewhere more expensive we’ll stay shorter. It doesn’t matter, wherever she wants is where we’ll go.

She immediately offered up Italy (which wasn’t terribly surprising) and then Australia. I’d love to go to both places, but I wouldn’t go to Australia unless I was scuba diving (we’re both certified and I’m a dive master). However, I would be able to get a round trip airfare ticket to Australia in miles on my Hawaiian Airlines card by then, so it IS something to consider.

I haven’t thought through all of the details, but I’ll probably put some loose constraints on the trip: 1) She has to graduate with a 3.5 GPA and 2) she’ll need to earn/save some of the money (like $500 or so, not too much that she can’t do it but enough that it will be something that she’ll have to work towards). She has a job now that she’s probably getting $10/hr at, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect her to save that much in 2 years. And I’ll want to make sure that the parents know that it is money that SHE earns, not that they give her. Kinda getting her used to the idea of saving for something that she wants before she heads off to college.

I know it is silly to start planning the next vacation before the photos for the last one are even up, but I had such a great time and next time I want to share it with someone that I love, and that person is my sister.


I’m finally back from my 3 week vacation. Needless to say, it was TONS of fun. =)

Financially it went REALLY well. I didn’t skimp on anything while I was gone, and someone I ended coming home with €95 – or around $132.

And when I say I didn’t skimp I really didn’t skimp at all! I had a lunch or dinner every day that was at a nice restaurant eating great food (between €8-16), in the Netherlands I bought all of the people who went out for the going away party of my friend Misha drinks all night (ended up, amazingly, only being €50).

I did end up using my credit card on the cruise because I wasn’t anticipating that they would charge me $11/day for tip of the crew. Which they totally deserved, but it was $110 I did not account for.

I had an absolutely amazing time and plan on writing a post about all my adventures when I get some time to sort through my 1,000 photos and get together all of my notes of what I did and where. It was very whirlwind going through 8 countries in 20 days.

For the first time in my entire life I came home from a vacation and wasn’t broke!!!. It is the most incredible thing ever. I still have $600 for spending money for the next 2 weeks. This has NEVER happened. Usually I’ll come back from vacation and have like $20 to my name and TONS of credit card debt. Not this time. Planning and saving and going nuts helped so much.

I was hoping as soon as I got back to update my status bars, but I’ll have to wait a little bit to update them all because my mail has gone mysteriously missing. So I can’t update everything. But I can update my savings and credit card debt (both of which are unfortunately higher). My ‘other debt’ and student loan debt are somewhere in my lost pile of mail which I’ll hopefully get tomorrow. The guy at the post office is looking into it for me. =)