Friday musings

Various thoughts and observations from this week:

I’m in the process of fact-checking and adding the “notes” section on Their Own Sweet Time. Fact-checking was one of my major duties during my year-long internship at USA Today after college, and in general, I am a careful writer. However, I’m still amazed how easy it is to get things wrong. I used the wrong last name for a woman multiple times in the manuscript. The name I used is the name of the college (within a larger university) where she teaches and I somehow got the two confused. Every discovery like that reminds me why I check.

I’m also in the process of re-reading my novel for one last round of edits. Likewise, this affords an opportunity to discover my bad writing habits. I use dashes way too much and, as it turns out, incorrectly.

I’m looking to speak with people who participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in the past and developed interesting time management techniques during that month.

We have now completely used up the apples from the apple-picking trip in September. I was eating one with my oatmeal every morning. I think I’ll quite miss them.

I hate maternity clothes with a burning passion. Unfortunately, this week I pretty much tipped over into not being able to wear my normal stuff. Hopefully I only have about 14 weeks to go.

The Thomas Piketty book (Capital in the Twenty-First Century) had a surprising number of references to Jane Austen and Balzac. In college, one of my favorite classes was on American economic history, and I enjoyed reading Piketty’s observations about what we can tell of conditions in history through novels of the time. In these books, people will talk about an estate worth 50,000 pounds a year. What on earth does that mean? If someone inherited a million dollars now, we wouldn’t talk about it being an estate worth $50,000 a year, but his point was that at the time, capital returns were pretty much set around 5% (either in government bonds or rent on real estate) and there was almost no inflation. A certain size fortune kicked off a certain size of income, and everyone knew what that meant. In an environment with inflation, and with a wider variety of investments, this is less clear.

So that was interesting. The policy recommendations, on the other hand, reminded me of The 4% Solution, a 2012 book put together by the George W. Bush Institute, only in the complete opposite direction. In the Bush book of essays, problems will be solved by tax cuts. In the Piketty book, problems will be solved by tax increases. Everyone has lots of charts.

I was pondering the arc of the successful personal finance writer’s career while reading a post from Money Saving Mom. She decided to more than double her grocery budget. She had been spending $50 a week or so (with wiggle room: she gets freebies, and her husband used to eat out at lunch, I gather). That was a big part of the early appeal of Money Saving Mom. People came during the financial crisis to see how she was spending so little on food. But now her husband is home full-time, he’s in charge of groceries, they can afford to spend more, and he wants to eat differently. I don’t think this is unique to the Paine family. People often start personal finance blogs because they’re in dire straits. They want to share what they’re doing to change that. If their tips are good, lots of people come to read. Eventually, having a desirable product is rewarded in the marketplace. The business grows. Our personal finance blogger is no longer in dire straits. So now what? Soul-searching. It’s always an interesting narrative.

I’m on my own with the kiddos this weekend. Here’s hoping it goes well!

12 thoughts on “Friday musings

  1. Good luck this weekend with the solo parenting!

    I actually liked my maternity clothes better (in some ways) because I found I could survive with a very small wardrobe as long as I liked everything in it. I think it paved the way to me embracing the Capsule Wardrobe trend this fall and realizing that taking time to find the higher quality, better fitting stuff is actually worth it for me rather than having 6 meh Old Navy shirts.

    1. @ARC – simple wardrobes are good. I’ve found that even with the high end maternity stuff, though, a lot of it is junk. It’s like everything I dislike about women’s clothes multiplied. It’s assumed to be disposable — especially since they know you’ll only wear it for a few months. Except if you have, like, 4 kids. Then the time adds up!

      1. I agree! It’s been a hard lesson to learn, that price is not necessarily an indicator of quality. And since the selection of maternity clothes is much smaller, you’re sort of stuck as well.

  2. I really liked the way MSM came out with the budget increase honestly and up front. I know a huge critique of PF bloggers is how readers know they’re making a good income and receiving freebies to boot, but still try to present themselves as hyper-frugal for their readers. Good for her.

    1. @sarah – agreed. It is good to be authentic. With that, a particular issue within the PF sphere is that it’s always good to know what choices are enabled by frugality, and which are enabled by earning good money. Often people stress the former, partly because everyone can cut coupons or try to find a better deal on car insurance. But while you can’t get anywhere by spending every cent you have, the latter often has a lot to do it. That’s why I’m glad MSM’s next book is about earning money. I’m hoping it leans more toward entrepreneurial ideas than the Swag bucks variety.

  3. I successfully completed NaNoWriMo last year. I’m happy to talk about the time management surrounding that month, especially since I’m planning to do it again this year.

  4. With my Austenian pedant’s hat on, I feel obliged to point out that a £50,000 per annum estate is wealth beyond the dreams of avarice in her novels. The single richest man in all of Austen’s fiction is worth £15,000 per annum.

    1. @Fionnuala- The book is back at the library, so I am probably remembering wrong! This is likely Balzac, talking about 50,000 francs per year. A much different number!

  5. I have won at NaNoWriMo twice now. The first time I was so worried about getting the word count that much is unusable.
    The second time was much better organised with just a little planning.
    Hopefully the third time is even better.

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