On Making Dollars and (Hopefully) Sense

money jar

Well, folks, the time has come: I’m monetizing this mofo. Specifically, I’m going to start adding affiliate links to a few of my posts.

Wait wait wait! Don’t run away! Let me explain what I’m doing, and then you can decide that I’m the worst and you hate me. Okay? Cool.

I’m dipping into the affiliate marketing business for one (exceedingly simple) reason: all this blogging takes time, and that time is uncompensated. Do I seriously enjoy blogging? Yes, I seriously do; I’d do it all day if I could. But I’m taking a cue from Rebecca Schuman, and countless other academic bloggers: when we treat our work as a “labor of love,” we’re essentially inviting that labor to be undervalued, both financially and socially. I no longer use that language to describe teaching, so I’m not going to use it to describe writing either.

None of this is to say I anticipate raking in the dough here at SMDS. Hardly.

I’ve discussed reframing multiple times on this blog, and that’s essentially what I’m doing now. I’m making a statement about my own value. I don’t want my readers (the vast majority of whom are cash-strapped grad students) to go out and buy things they don’t want or need. I will, however, happily take some of the money that’s already out there, that I generated—albeit indirectly—through my writing. I won’t go out of my way for it, but when it makes sense, I won’t shy away from passive income out of “principle.” Even a couple pennies in the ole’ savings account will go a long way in helping me justify SMDS’s presence in those (annoying) moments where it feels like a frivolous indulgence.

So how does this change your experience as a reader? It doesn’t, period. Unless, of course, you want it to.

For example, in my next post, I’ll be reviewing Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning. Before—if you decided a book I reviewed might be worth a read—you would make a mental note, open another window and buy it on Amazon, or add it to your library list. Now, if you decide you want to buy it, you’ll be able to click an Amazon link on by website and buy it immediately. Here’s the cool part: let’s say you click through the link to buy the book, but decide against it. You buy a salad spinner instead, because hey, who doesn’t love a salad spinner? Well, I’ll get a commission for that sale, because I’m the reason you went onto Amazon.com in the first place. Of course, I make very little money from this transaction, but it’s a cool way to support the blog, without actually doing anything you wouldn’t be doing already.

Here’s what I won’t be doing: I won’t link to or review products willy-nilly. I won’t suddenly turn SMDS into an all-book-review website, nor will I suddenly start touting the benefits of a new and exciting grad-student-specific snake oils. If an affiliate link appears on my site, you can be sure I’ve purchased and used the product myself. I also won’t tell you to buy it. In fact, in my upcoming review, I’m going to suggest that you not buy The Miracle Morning (spoiler alert), but that little link will be there in case you see a value I in the book that I don’t… and just in case you’re still thinking about that salad spinner.

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

The SMDS “Suggested Reading” List

I have to apologize to those of you who’ve joined the SMDS RSS feed over the past week or so, because your (much-appreciated) interest in my blog happens to coincide with my needing to step away. A dissertation deadline beckons, so I need to hoard all of my creative juices, gremlin style, until Tuesday, October 23.

Until then, dear reader, I thought I would pass along a “Suggested Reading” list for those of you who are new to the website. These are some of my favorite posts so far, and hopefully offer a little insight into what The Six Million Dollar Scholar is all about.

My grandmother being nutty as she was wont to do.

Nude Models, Pot Brownies, and Frankenfoot: A Tribute to My Grandmother

I wrote this post on what would have been my grandmother’s eighty first birthday. It’s my favorite post because it’s about one of my favorite people; you’ll enjoy it because it’s a reminder that sometimes we don’t need to look very far to find a hero. In my case, I realized I grew up with a brilliant, hardcore feminist in my basement, a woman whose improbable life deserves to be the stuff of books.

Vito Russo, about whom an entire post is coming very soon. Born July 11, 1946, died November 7, 1990. His is one of the many faces I can't get out of my head. Click image to see the website this image came from.

What I’m Learning from A Giant Stack of Obituaries

I came home from my most recent research trip with literally hundreds of obituaries, and no immediate use for them. I’ve since discovered that they may indeed have a home in my dissertation. Even if that turns out not to be the case, they were worth the money I spent printing them, because they taught me a lot about myself, about the research process, and about the fiction that is the personal/professional binary.

Dear Diary

This post has a special place in my heart, because it’s probably the single most effective life hack I’ve implemented since starting The Six Million Dollar Scholar. At the time I wrote the post, I’d only been journaling for six days, but today I can report that, for the first time in my life, I have a daily journaling practice. it’s now been almost two months, and I’m still going strong. It’s incredibly rewarding, and—for an historian, anyway—a great reminder that not all archives are brick and mortar.

Taken yesterday.

The Human Thundershirt

Quite possibly the strangest proof-of-concept blog post ever, I demonstrate that my newfound ability to calm the world’s most disturbed canine is a sign that the world needs more blogs like mine. Plus, there’s an abundance of pictures of a sweet baby puppy dog face girl.

When One Door Closes, Make Lemonade

My summer session course ended up being cancelled, a highly improbable scenario realized by a perfect storm of utter lameitude. When I wrote this post, I thought I’d done a pretty great job polishing a gnarly turd of a moment in my teaching career. In hindsight though, it’s nothing short of amazing how everything worked out. After all, while I didn’t anticipate being out of a teaching job, I neither did I anticipate running into medical problems this summer that would have made teaching a damned-near Herculean task. Maybe, just maybe, the universe was looking out for me?

That oughta keep you busy! See y’all again soon!

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

Two Podcasts Humanities PhD Students Can Enjoy Despite Themselves

Brain

I rarely watch television anymore, so great is my love for all things audio. I especially enjoy listening to podcasts.

Podcasts are a great medium for graduate students, because our time is limited, and so is our brain space. Thinking for a living is hard, and by the time I get home (or disengage from my desk), the idea of having to listen, watch and understand anything seems like a chore.

Speaking of chores, since I’m not trying to focus on a screen, podcasts actually facilitate a lot of chore-doing in my house. From sorting my mail to doing the dishes to cataloging my sources, everything becomes a little less arduous when I have something else to focus on.

While (as I’ve made clear in previous posts) I love my history podcasts, I’ve also started branching out a bit. In so doing, I’ve re-discovered the beauty of thinking beyond one’s field.

Below are three of the blogs I’ve added to my “interdisciplinary audio” syllabus.


 

The Side Hustle Show

In the past couple of weeks I’ve learned something that, I have to confess, made me a little uncomfortable at first: grad students and entrepreneurs are a lot alike. At first this kind of freaked me out, because isn’t the ivory tower about escaping the drive to monetize this, leverage that, and optimize everything? Isn’t capitalism the enemy?

Well, yes and no.

Building a “side hustle”—a small business that generates supplemental income—requires a lot of the same skills that you need to build an academic career. You need to know what you’re good at, position yourself within an already thriving community, prove that you have something unique and valuable to offer that community, and—perhaps most important of all—you need to learn how to do it all with exactly zero time.

Full disclosure: I found “The Side Hustle Show with Nick Loper” because I am working on a new project to supplement my income. I didn’t just stumble upon it. That having been said, I now realize that at least some of the episodes would have been helpful to me long before I began trying to figure out how not to be poor. I especially recommend episodes like “How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half,” ”How Side Hustlers Can Get More Done in Less Time,” and “How to Live Rent Free.”

Fair warning though: getting the information you need out of this podcast will require that you leave your various and sundry prejudices against business folk at the door.

It’s embarrassing to admit one’s own prejudices in public, but the fact is I DO indeed identify the term “entrepreneurship” with bro culture, which I DO think of as a problem. I still squirm listening to “The Side Hustle Show’s” (intentionally) sales-pitchy introduction, and frequently find myself waiting for discussions of ethics and workplace structural inequalities that, shockingly, never seem to come up. I’ve heard terms like “ROI” and “SEO optimization” and “affiliate marketing” so many times it’s made my ears bleed, but I’m genuinely glad for it. If you can listen past your own culture shock, you too will find ways to make “The Side Hustle Show” work for you. You just have to do a little bit of cherry-picking.

And no… Nick Loper did not pay me to say any of this. I wish he had.

The Domestic CEO

When one hears the term “graduate student,” it conjures images of coffee stains, towering blue books, and day-old bed head. Here’s the thing: we aren’t all slovenly creatures. Some of us actually keep nice homes and organized workspaces. Still more of us aspire to!

The Domestic CEO is an awesome podcast for Martha Stewart and Pig Pen alike, but isn’t one I would suggest for “vertical listening.” While I really didn’t need to hear the “Laundry 101” episode, the “How to Keep Your Bathroom Clean Without Cleaning” episode may have just changed my life forever. I’m not kidding.

Whether you’re interested in keeping your car clean, saving time at the grocery store, the myriad ways one can use cream of tartar, or how to style a bookshelf, chances are you’ll find something worth listening to in the DCEO feed.

The benefits of listening to this show are practical yes, but they are also psychological. Graduate student’s often think of the place they live as a transitional space instead of a home, and manage it accordingly. This… is dumb. Your life is not on hold. Your home shouldn’t be either.

Give these podcasts a listen and let me know if you agree with me! Where do you go when you need inspiration outside academia? Have you found any grad school hacks in unconventional places? Share them with the rest of the class in the comments section!

 

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

 

Six Million Dollar Smoothies: The Big Purple Giant

There are a great many food bloggers out travelling the information superhighway, and personal finance bloggers too! I don’t consider myself to be either of these things. SMDS is about learning how to survive and thrive in graduate school, with a dash of my own research interests for color. It’s hardly surprising, however, that my first-ever food-focused post turned out to be quite popular. After all, grad students love food, especially cheap food. I got a few requests for recipes, so I’m going to space them out over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to keep experimenting… see how many of these bad boys I can think up.

I cannot emphasize enough that I am NOT a food blogger. If you needed any more evidence of that, here's photographic proof. I promise I'll get better.

I cannot emphasize enough that I am NOT a food blogger. If you needed any more evidence of that, here’s photographic proof. I promise I’ll get better.

A quick refresher for anybody who didn’t read my last post: I am in the midst of a diet, so I am using smoothies because—if you’re smart about how you make them—they can be (1) healthy, (2) dirt cheap, and (3) excellent meal replacements. If you want a low calorie smoothie, you can tweak the recipe below, and half the calorie content.

Ask and ye shall receive dear reader. Without further ceiling staring and shuffling of feet, here’s my first recipe in my ridiculous new series: Six Million Dollar Smoothies. 


 

The Big Purple Giant 

This is a great way to get your greens in without sacrificing taste.

If you want to up the protein—especially if you’re a vegetarian (like me) or not actively trying to lose weight (unlike me) I suggest adding one scoop (100 calories) worth of vanilla whey powder. I don’t think it hurts the taste, but try it and see what you think.

The recipe is HUGE, but I drink the whole thing, because why not? If you’re less ambitious, this recipe is big enough to share with somebody.

NB: Take out the Greek yogurt and you’ve got a vegan smoothie, though I’d suggest adding tofu or something similar to improve the texture.

The other great thing about smoothies that I forgot to mention? You can *actually* get work done while drinking them. When I try to eat at my desk, it's a comedy of errors.

The other great thing about smoothies that I forgot to mention? You can *actually* get work done while drinking them. When I try to eat at my desk, it’s a comedy of errors.

Ice cubes, 4-5

Coconut milk, 1 cup (I use ½ cup unsweetened and ½ cup unsweetened)

Greek yogurt, ½ cup-1 cup (I prefer vanilla, but plain will work too)

Frozen blueberries, ¾ cup

Banana, 1 whole, cut into pieces

Fresh baby spinach, 2-2½ cups (or however much you can stomach!)

Calories: 352 – 307

 

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

I’m Shrinking, and So Are My Bills!

Last month I made a promise to myself to lose twenty pounds by Thanksgiving.

Before I say anything else, I want to be super clear that this isn’t going to be a “thinspirational” blog post. I promise. This is NOT the place to go for fat-shaming rhetoric. Fact is, I was actually *quite* happy with the person I saw in the mirror a month ago.

In the past several months, however, an old medical problem has resurfaced—albeit in a new way—and my mobility has been severely compromised. I’m heading to surgical consult number two this week, so needless to say, the process of getting better is going to take a while. Until then, I just have to make it work, which means limiting my activity, and taking pain medicine. The only other thing that I can do for myself right now… is lose weight.

Makes sense right? When you’re carrying extra weight your joints are carrying it too, and—right now anyway—mine can’t afford any extra strain.

I promised to lose twenty pounds by Thanksgiving as an act of radical self-care, knowing full well that it was going to be a major uphill battle given my inability to exercise like I used to. Good news folks: I’m about seven pounds lighter today than I was this time a month ago! Hooray for me!

Actually, there’s more than one reason to be proud of me. Here’s reason number two: I didn’t anticipate that this would happen, but in adjusting my diet, I’ve also started saving a TON of money. Like, my grocery bill for the week has been halved, and then some.

THAT, my friends, is knowledge I feel a genuine obligation to share.

In the past I’ve been surprisingly successful using SlimFast shakes to lose weight, but there was NO chance of me trying that again, because it turns out I’m a little on the lactose intolerant side. I’ve significantly cut my dairy intake, and never drink milk anymore. I know meal replacement (“drinking your breakfast” of a different sort) works for me, so instead of buying shakes, I’ve started making my own smoothies.

Poor graduate students everywhere: you do NOT need a Vitamix or a fancy pants juicer to make a decent smoothie. A regular blender does the job just fine. That first shopping trip—the one in which you acquire bag upon bag of frozen fruit—is a little painful, but after that, your weekly shopping bill will go through the floor. MY GROCERIES FOR THIS WEEK COST ME UNDER $40. That’s fourteen plus smoothies, ingredients for a giant batch of homemade Santa Fe style Beans n’ Rice, and the staple foods I needed to replenish.

NB: I cook and freeze meals en masse about eight times a year, so I always have a variety of dinner options despite only cooking one big meal a week. If you’re cooking all of your meals the week you eat them, your grocery bills are always going to be big. Sorry.

High protein smoothies are not inherently diet-friendly—in fact, you have to craft your recipes very carefully if you ARE trying to lose weight with them—so replacing one to two meals with this stuff isn’t just a tip for grad students to lose weight. Nope. It’s a tip for folks like me who (1) desperately need to save money, (2) can fill up on a “liquid lunch.” and (3) won’t get too bored with the “smoothie experience.” I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to food (really, I just want to be full), so, provided I get to have different kinds of blended fruit beverages whenever I want, I’m perfectly happy to drink two a day while counting my imaginary money.

I knew "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" was an actual movie, but never realized that  Lily Tomlin starred in it. Onto the to-do list it goes!

I knew “The Incredible Shrinking Woman” was an actual movie, but never realized that Lily Tomlin starred in it. Onto the to-do list it goes!

So there you go folks. A quick and painless way to save at the supermarket and stay healthy at the same time, brought to you by the Incredible Shrinking Scholar. Hit me up in the comments section if you’d like some recipes, or have some of your own that you’d like to share with the rest of the class!

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

 

 

The Tale of the Giant Bed

Bed1This past week I bought a mattress—like, a real mattress—for the very first time. In the five plus years since I graduated college, I’ve been through two $100ish dollar pieces of IKEA foam nested less-than-comfortably on wooden IKEA bed slats. They creaked and groaned with every move, and each night’s sleep was slightly more uncomfortable than the last.

So why wait five years to invest in a decent bed? My rationale was simple: grad students don’t have nice things. Grad students are poor. If I manage to get a PhD AND a job, I’ll have earned a comfortable mattress. Until then, to quote Dan Savage: “Suffer, bitch.”

This is a fairly accurate representation of how huge my new bed is.

This is a fairly accurate representation of how huge my new bed is.

So how is it that I am writing to you now, perched atop a tower (no kidding, an actual tower) of coils, latex, and foam? How is it that I’ve joined the ranks of the elite, with their fancy box springs and ten year warranties? I didn’t get my PhD, nor did I get a job, and I most definitely did not get rich overnight. Far from it.

I wish I could say I came to the decision to toss my crap bed and invest (with the help of my beloved mother) in a real mattress through meditation and a careful reframing of my self-image. Alas and alack, that would be a lie. I came to the decision because I’m in pain. Like, I’m-going-to-need-surgery level pain.

In a slightly bizarre twist, this is the second time I’m writing about mattresses this month. In a previous post about attending college with a physical disability, I wrote the following:

 [I]t can be really hard to know what you’re going to need to get through college, and how exactly to go about getting it. Because college is a new life experience, it necessarily brings up new issues for which one is unprepared. The most important accommodation I had in the course of my undergraduate career wasn’t about where my classes were or attendance policies, or even being excused from classes during inclement weather. No… turned out I really needed a new mattress every year. Can’t say I’d seen that coming when I was getting myself ready to go to college. What your students need may surprise you, but keep in mind that it may also surprise them.

Realizing I needed a new mattress now, almost ten years after I originally marched (okay, limped) to Bryn Mawr’s Disability Services office and requested the same was admittedly a little demoralizing. What was more demoralizing, though, was realizing that it took yet another instance of physical impairment to get me to prioritize my wellbeing over my credit card balance.

The moral of the story here is simple: think about how you would treat yourself if you’d just returned from a trip to the hospital. If you’re anything like me, you’ve found—or imagine you would find—that in the moments where your health hangs in the balance, you speak up, make demands, and advocate for yourself. You can’t afford not to! Why oh why don’t we treat ourselves that way all the time?

Gee... if I'd realized adjustable beds were THIS much fun...

Gee… if I’d realized adjustable beds were THIS much fun…

You know that adjustable bed commercial where the middle aged woman says something to the effect of “I’m glad I didn’t wait until I’m too old to enjoy this!” Well, that’s basically what I’m saying, only in a “hindsight is 20/20” kind of way. At this particular moment my fancy new mattress isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s a necessity because I waited until I WAS in too much pain to view it as anything else. Yes, I am enjoying my new bed, but I’d definitely enjoy it more if I’d bought it earlier, and for the right reasons.

I can think of nothing more important for quality of life than a good place to sleep. And yet, for four long years I let (a) sticker shock, and (b) the cockamamie notion that grad students aren’t supposed to be comfortable, keep me from having my gigantic miracle bed. Lesson learned. From here on out, I’m going to expect better of myself. I’ll always find the money for the things I need: the more difficult task is remembering that I deserve to have the things I need.

So yeah. The new office chair’s being delivered tomorrow.

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

The Six Million Dollar Self-Improvement Report Card

The whole concept behind The Six Million Dollar Scholar is that I’m rebuilding myself, and in so doing becoming a better scholar and person. As a result I’ve written many a post about my adventures in healthy living, good habit formation, etc. It suddenly dawned on me tonight that I’ve never checked back in on any of the subjects I’ve tackled.

Below is my report card. Like the proverbial spaghetti thrown at the wall, some of the changes I blogged about stuck, and some didn’t. But—also like the proverbial spaghetti thrown at the wall—the process has been quite fun.


Maintain a daily journal

PASS. With the exception of one day—the day before I presented at the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association’s annual conference—I have not missed a day. Twenty three days of journaling might not be much, but it’s about twenty days better than I’ve ever done before, so my “diary hacks” seem to be working.

Meditate every day.

NO PASS. I didn’t stay “mad centered” for even a week. While I think Headspace is an interesting app, I honestly don’t think meditation (or at least meditation as described in everything I’ve ever read/seen/heard) is for me. The fact of the matter is, I spend a lot of time being quiet and letting my mind go where it wants to go already, so I don’t get a feeling a gratification from formal meditation that’s significant enough to keep me coming back. I still aspire to meditate, but I’m throwing it on the backburner for the time being to focus on maintaining the good habits I have been successful in cultivating.

Force fun on a regular basis.

INCOMPLETE. This one won’t make much sense unless you read my previous post, “Forced Fun is Still Fun.” I’ve sent off all but one measly square of my adoptive niece’s baby quilt to be crocheted, but since returning to California, I’ve not touched my knitting needles. This is not a good thing, but at the same time, I’m only just now beginning to feel truly settled in at home again. A lot’s happened recently: I got a new roommate, gave a presentation at a professional conference, became *completely* absorbed by the murder of Mike Brown, got a nasty cold, and have been dealing with some medical issues that—while not debilitating—are logistically, emotionally, and physically exhausting. So yeah, I haven’t had the energy for my hobbies recently, but that time’s been devoted to sleep, which I’ve needed badly. I’m still a big proponent of forced fun… and as soon as my life settles into a routine, I’m going to reincorporate it.

Open a credit union account.

NO PASS. This is why a report card’s so important. I totally forgot I’d committed to doing this, and it’s something I can do on campus, with very little hassle. There’s no excuse for not getting it done. Shame on me.

Figure out the “budgeting” thing

PROBATION. On the one hand, I did exactly what I said I would do. I downloaded Mint, and have started tracking my spending. I’ve discovered some trends that surprised me in the process, like, who knew I spent so much at Target? Just seeing my spending in pie chart form has encouraged moderation in some areas. I’ve been eating out rarely, if at all; this includes going to places like Peet’s and its pocket-draining siblings. I’m also NOT buying clothing under any circumstances. But of course, in other areas, I feel like my spending is out of control. My laptop needed fixing this week, I dropped over a grand to attend last week’s professional conference, my medical expenses have gone way up, and just yesterday I purchased two expensive pieces of furniture to help ameliorate the chronic pain I’m currently dealing with. So yes, I think I have a much clearer picture of my budget. Is that reflected by my account balances? No comment.

Pay off remaining credit card debt

NO PASS. See above, and then feel free to chuckle a bit.

Take a personal finance class

PASS. Sort of. I’m not enrolled in a class of any kind, but I’ve started listening to the Money Girl podcast recently, and I can now say I understand what a Roth IRA is, which charitable contributions are tax deductible, the importance of renter’s insurance, and how to save money planning a vacation. (Okay, I might have occasionally dozed off while listening—wow money can be boring—but I totally know where to get information when I need it.) I also reviewed my credit, and made decisions about student loans for the coming year. So I’ve been learning quite a bit, but in an open-air classroom, so to speak.

Lose weight.

PASS. I actually never wrote about this particular goal on SMDS, but reviewing my report card is a bit depressing, so I’m ending on a high note. I’ll probably write on this topic later… suffice it to say I’ve lost six pounds in under a month, and I’m really proud of myself.

So there you have it folks, a heaping serving of realness. This was actually a really good exercise for me, so I would encourage you to do the same, and share it with the rest of us! Accountability is a truly beautiful thing.


 

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.