Reader Mailbag: Babysitting Service

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Alternative payment options
2. Worried about spoiling child
3. Stop gap job?
4. Credit limit increases
5. Rolling over old 401(k)s
6. Maintaining old professional connections
7. Struggling with job interviews
8. Classical music
9. Replacing old appliances
10. Soapmaking question

Over the past few months, I’ve been running a babysitting service that runs parallel to a women’s group that Sarah is involved with. Basically, if women wish to attend a group meeting but are prevented from doing so by child care needs, I simply take care of that need.

It’s pretty simple. I usually make a couple of pizzas, set up a television with an appropriate film (usually a Pixar film), and then take care of all of the food and drink needs for the kids while they watch. If one of the young ones needs bathroom help, I do that, too. (There haven’t been any infants as of yet, but I wouldn’t object to that.)

Surprisingly, I’ve found myself really enjoying this – and I think the kids notice, too. The number of children has doubled since I started doing it and it’s now reaching the point where I may actually try to seek out someone to help on a rotating basis.

I was rather hesitant to try doing this before it started because, frankly, being in charge of a group of children isn’t something I’m accustomed to at all, but I’m glad I pushed myself to do it.

Q1: Alternative payment options
Many utility/service providers charge a fee for making an online payment via credit card (or rather, the third party vendor handling the CC transaction charges the fee). Often times, those same providers will accept a bank account and routing number for payment free of charge. I want to avoid the fee AND earn cash back on those recurring payments (gas, electricity, student loan payments, excise tax).

I did some cursory research and it seems like it could be done via PayPal. Get a PayPal debit card and PayPal would act as checking account and charges CC on file for any transaction that exceeds your PayPal balance.

Before I dig any further, I wanted to see if you know of any solutions.
– Alan

I looked through the terms of service and I didn’t see any obvious drawbacks to your plan in terms of using a PayPal debit card.

However, you’d need to be sure that the vendors you’re wishing to do business with will accept this debit card as a payment method. Paypal isn’t a bank and thus doesn’t have a routing number.

I don’t know of an easy way to do what you’re trying to do, unfortunately.

Q2: Worried about spoiling child
Are you spoiling a child if you give them small treats after they behave well?

My daughter behaves well in public almost all of the time. When we go to the store, she walks alongside the cart and doesn’t grab stuff. When we go to things where she has to be quiet, she almost always just sits there quietly.

When I see other kids behaving badly, I want to show her that I am really proud of her behavior, so I will sometimes buy her small treats. I am afraid that I am spoiling her though and she will associate good behavior with treats and not with what she should normally be doing.
– Danielle

I would watch for signs of spoiling a child, but if you don’t see any, I wouldn’t worry about it.

What signs? Does your daughter expect treats? Does your daughter sometimes demand them and get upset without them? Does she act poorly if you indicate that there won’t be any treats?

If you start seeing these signs, then the treats should stop as you’re heading down a negative path.

Q3: Stop gap job?
First of all, I am employed with a government job that earns a good enough salary that we will make it through this situation, no matter what happens.

My husband was laid off several months ago and we’ve finally reached the end of unemployment insurance. He has been really active in trying to find a job. I have sat on the couch next to him and watched him sending off resumes on several different evenings and he’s been on several interviews, but no job.

Should he take a temporary job to keep earning income or should he focus entirely on getting a job on his career path? Our savings are slowly draining right now but we have enough so that we’re not in danger of going broke.
– Melanie

If he can find a job that will give him enough flexibility that he can make it to interviews, I’d consider a stop-gap job. If he’s willing to be a consistent and dutiful worker, many entry-level jobs will work with him on this – after all, it’s better than someone who doesn’t show up.

For instance, I worked at an entry-level position where my supervisor would allow me a long “lunch break” to go to an interview because I showed up every time, rarely called in sick, and tried to do my job effectively. The best approach here is to just work very hard and show up every time, then simply ask for a couple hours off when an interview pops up.

He should not give up on finding another job. He should keep applying for jobs during the hours when he’s not working and he should go to every possible interview.

Q4: Credit limit increases
My question is about credit limit increases. I’ve been wisely using credit cards since I was old enough to open them and have never carried a balance or paid interest on anything. I recently received an email from American Express offering me a credit limit increase from $2,000 to $3,000. I do have several other cards but all accounts are in good standing. Since I never carry a balance I’m not concerned that the increased limit will encourage me to spend, and my overall credit utilization percentage is already low since I have so many cards (a total of 5 including the AmEx). I did a few quick Google searches to see if there is any potential downside to accepting this limit increase and I can’t seem to find any. Am I missing anything? Should I go for it? According to Credit Karma I have an excellent credit score and I’d like to keep it that way.

– Steve

It’s not going to hurt you unless you have a huge combined credit limit across all your cards already, and even then, a small bump like this would be negligible. If your combined credit limit is small, this may even be a positive help.

If you already have a low credit utilization and have had it for a long time, I would think the risk of overspending for you should be relatively low. You just need to continue these behaviors.

In short, I wouldn’t worry about it.

Q5: Rolling over old 401(k)s
Should I roll over my 401(k) from my old job into the 401(k) at my new job? It seems pretty straightforward to do it but I want to know if I should?

– Terry

I’d compare the specific investments. How do the investment options in the old 401(k) compare to the new one? I’d specifically look at the investments you have already chosen or similar ones that you might choose.

You should compare the fees and the annual returns of those investments. If the annual returns are reasonably close, use the fees to determine which is better.

If the old 401(k) is better, leave your money there. If the new one is better, roll over the old one.

Q6: Maintaining old professional connections
How much effort should I put into keeping up old professional connections? Does it really help with future career moves?

– Dan

If it’s just a passive connection, like a connection on LinkedIn or a Facebook friendship, it probably won’t help much.

Active connections can help a lot, but I’d advise you to be somewhat selective with these. I’d stick with people that were highly effective in their jobs in the past. Maintaining a professional connection with someone that’s just collecting a paycheck probably won’t help.

How do you do this? Just send them a personal message or email every few months asking what they’re up to professionally. If they mention anything that’s a struggle, ask for specifics and try to look for a way to easily help them. If you happen to be near them, go to lunch with them. This type of connection can really help, both in direct and indirect ways.

Q7: Struggling with job interviews
I’m currently looking for a new job, and I’ve gone on two interviews so far. I did not get one job and am still waiting to hear about another, but I don’t feel optimistic about it.

In both interviews, I felt very well prepared. I’d composed strong answers to possible questions and prepared anecdotes illustrating my strengths. The problem is, I didn’t get to deliver some (maybe most) of them, because I guess I kind of blanked under pressure. I know some of my nerves will subside in time, once I have more experience interviewing for jobs of the caliber I’m currently after, but I’m looking for advice in the meantime. I don’t want to let another opportunity go by for the same reasons. Is it okay in your opinion to refer to notes during the interview to keep myself on track? I’ve found conflicting opinions online and am interested in yours, as well as any other advice you might have
– Denise

If I were interviewing someone, I wouldn’t be bothered at all by their notes. It would indicate to me that the person put in the effort to be prepared, so I’d probably view it as a positive for most positions.

Having said that, this is one of those things that’s going to work differently for different people. Some people will view notes as being a negative. It’s really hard to tell what exactly the interviewer will think.

If I were going to an interview, I’d probably ask about the use of notes. Generally, interviewers who are positive about notes will say they’re fine, but interviewers that are negative about notes will simply deny them.

Q8: Classical music
You should share songs from other genres in your Pieces of Inspiration. Classical music just does nothing for me.

– Andrea

I occasionally do this, but most of the music I listen to is either classical or alt-country/bluegrass/folk (I have no idea where the genre boundaries are with those genres). My favorite musicians are Old Crow Medicine Show and The Avett Brothers, both of which I’ve used in Pieces of Inspiration.

The problem is that everyone has different genres that they like. My best friend likes hard rock. My parents love country music. I have other close friends that are into hip hop. When I hear most of that stuff, I can appreciate the skill it takes, but it just doesn’t… inspire me.

There are some pieces that I could link to every week, like Salvation Song by The Avett Brothers. At some point, maybe I should just do a “top fifty” or something from my pieces of inspiration.

Q9: Replacing old appliances
Recently, a repairman was at our house checking out our dryer. He fixed the problem for cheap so that it runs for the moment, but he told us that there were several other problems looming and that we should be ready to replace it, so we started shopping for a new dryer and we don’t know what to buy.

The price range of dryers is enormous, from $300 to like $2,000. We want one that’s energy efficient and reliable but we don’t need all of the extra bells and whistles. Also we aren’t sure if we will live here more than a few more years and we don’t know if we will take appliances with us. What should we buy?
– Bonnie

If you’re probably leaving at the five year mark and you have a strong possibility of leaving your appliance behind, I would probably buy a cheap dryer.

Most of the time, energy efficiency doesn’t end up being a net savings until you’ve used the appliance for several years. Also, even cheap dryers will generally last five years or so. We have a very cheap dryer and it’s lasted for quite a while (though we’re probably heading for an appliance replacement).

If I were you, I’d probably buy a cheaper dryer and then plan on leaving it behind when you move. Generally, if you leave appliances behind, this will increase the value of the home when you sell it, so you’ll recoup that cost.

Q10: Soapmaking question
I am making soap for the first time and a friend gave me a pound of mango butter. I want to make a mango butter/goat milk recipe without any add on’s and the only a lb at first. How do I adjust the recipe, base recipe, to account for the milk? Are the milk and the water interchangeable?

– Nina

You can replace the water with milk in a basic soap recipe and things will be fine.

However – and this is vital – lye will cause milk to burn at room temperature, completely ruining your soap. You should freeze the milk first. I would suggest making “milk cubes” in an ice cube tray and then adding the cubes when making the soap.

If you don’t do this, you’ll just ruin the soap. If you want to see what happens, just add a bit of lye to some room temperature milk – or even somewhat chilled milk. It’s not good.

Got any questions? The best way to ask is to email me – trent at thesimpledollar dot com. IĆ­ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag (which, by way of full disclosure, may also get re-posted on other websites that pick up my blog). However, I do receive many, many questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

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