2016 Totebag year in review and looking ahead to 2017

by Grace aka costofcollege

It’s been quite a year for discussions, particularly those of a political nature.  Since they were week-long posts, I excluded the weekly political open threads from this list.

Totebag posts that received the most page views in 2016:

  1. Hot political issues
  2. Totebaggy values
  3. Open thread
  4. Secret shame
  5. Supersmart kids
  6. On the fundamental inequality of the sexes
  7. Lean in?
  8. The unbearable hellishness of customer support
  9. The Frugalwoods
  10. Monday open thread & The GOP’s future? (tie)

Any thoughts?  What were your favorite posts and topics?  Any ideas for changes for our blog?  Do you think politics will continue to be a hot topic?


70 thoughts on “2016 Totebag year in review and looking ahead to 2017

  1. I loved our Do It Now challenge, because it really motivated me to take care of a bunch of lingering but non-urgent tasks.

    Happy New Year to everyone!

    And CofC, thank you for all your work maintaining this blog.

  2. And CofC, thank you for all your work maintaining this blog.

    A big ditto.

    Anything about education is going to be a hot topic here.

  3. Happy New Year, everyone!

    Yes, many thanks to CofC for keeping us all talking.

    I enjoy most topics we discuss here and have no burning need for changes. I think we do a good job of submitting topics we are interested in ourselves and believe the group will like.

    I’m looking forward to another year with all of you. I think it might have been 10 years ago that I stumbled upon TOS while waiting for a conference call to begin. Am I ever glad I did!

  4. I like the topics pretty much, though I tend to glaze over when it is a finance or car topic. But clearly others like those topics. BTW, I submitted something I think last week. I can’t even remember what it was about right now!!!!

  5. +1 on thanks to CoC
    +1 on my 10yr anniversary of hanging out with you all! It was definitely early in 2007 when I first started reading TOS.

    Looking forward to this year…as always, lots of changes/new things will be in the mix. Best wishes to all.

  6. I like being able to submit articles on various topics that interest me, in hope that at least a few other people will find them interesting. I like being able to discuss politics, since that’s not something I do in real life. I add my appreciation to CoC for maintaining the blog.

  7. I am just dragging myself out from under a 3 day migraine. I have never had a migraine before and it is the ACTUAL WORST. I just had to lie on the couch all day feeling sick to my stomach with a hat on (bc otherwise it was too bright) and take naps and not look at any books or screens or anything. ARGH. I hope I don’t get any more!!!!!! This afternoon I was able to rouse myself sufficiently to do the dishes. :-P

  8. L that sounds hideous. So sorry you went through that, I hope it never returns.

  9. CoC – a huge thank you for maintaining this year after year

    I found TOS during the first month on the WSJ site, but I am not sure if it was ’06 or ’07. doesn’t really matter, but I never imagined that I would be with some of you from preschool drop off to teenage years.

    I do NOT like the political posts, and I am thankful that they reside in a separate spot. I haven’t visited since the week after the election. I would have to leave permanently because I just couldn’t stomach some of the stuff that I was reading.

    I am fine with all of the other posts. There are some posts that don’t exactly interest me, but I try to check in because they tend to drift to other subjects.

    I am dreading tomorrow because I have to wake up so early to return to the school schedule.

  10. OK, this is off topic but I think you guys might find this one amusing. My chair, as I have mentioned many times, is insane. I can’t decide if he is really an arrogant bully or just clueless. Anyway, I got email from him at 5:30pm on New Years Eve, saying he wants to work on the schedule for Fall2017 on Monday (that is today), and would I please send him the stats on enrollments in all of our Fall2016 courses, plus a list of all the courses we should offer next fall and number of sections and who should teach them, by the next day (that is, yesterday now, New Year’s Day). This came out of nowhere. I have no idea why he suddenly has a bug up his rear to do the fall schedule – he normally waits until the last second and then has hysterics. But, New Year’s Eve, seriously? I am guessing he doesn’t really have a life but it appears he assumes we don’t either.

    I ignored the request. I was going to work on it today, but the university administative site that has all the info is down (and the IT people are on holiday, hah!). I will send him an email saying that since it was official vacation week, I wasn’t reading my work email closely.

  11. +1 also on thanks to CoC.

    I continue to enjoy this site because of the intelligent, civil discussions, and the fact that participants in those discussions often have valid, but different, takes on issues that enlighten me.

    I’ve also received some very useful advice here.

  12. Mooshi, that’s insane.

    Our kids are off school through the rest of the week. They get a 2 1/2 week break this year.

    I will continue to maintain I have the best boss, but she totally botched the holidays this year. Our work holidays every year are 1/2 days for Christmas Eve and NYE, and full days for Christmas and New Year’s Day. This year they are weekends obviously. I assumed we would get the Mondays off since they are the legal holidays, but nope. People who work weekends got the holidays, those who work weekdays (which is most of us) got no paid holidays off. I had to take a PTO day for the 26th, and I’m working today.

  13. DD, that is strange. My DH had both MOndays off. He also took vacation days, so he was home the 24th, the 26th, the 27th, the 28th, and the 29th. He worked on the 30th, now he is home again today. He and the kids go back tomorrow. Kids are all frantically doing homework.

  14. DD,

    Does your boss have an inpatient background? If she does, I can totally understand her not understanding why you’d expect Monday off.

  15. Another big thank you to CoC for keeping this going. I was on TOS, not sure how long, but was so busy with work and young kids I was a hit/miss reader, which is why it took me a while to find you all here!

    I like that we send in topics. It allows us to discuss the ones of interest and pass on those that aren’t. I don’t mind an occaisional political post on the main page, but prefer them to be on another page.

    And, OT – I need some ideas for a 4-5 day spring break vacation where it is warm. Looked at cruises out of Galveston, but we are bookended by DD#1’s trip that a parent must drop off and pick up due to international travel.

  16. Lauren pretty much spoke my mind.

    MM, I can easily see digging into something work-related over winter break. But calling on someone else to join in is inappropriate, to put it lightly. And I don’t see why he couldn’t pull that data himself.

  17. We don’t get a weekday for holidays that fall on the weekend as a general rule. So this year the only official day off was 12/26. Not an inpatient setting. I’m at work today and actually went downtown to the office. Schools don’t start back until tomorrow, so light traffic, easy parking, and fewer distractions. No complaints other than 5:45 felt really early when no one else had to get up this morning!

  18. Austin, how far/how spendy? I’m sure Tenerif would be great, am not sure it’s in your time or money budget.

  19. We are in Texas, so 1/2 day travel each way max would be good and gives us a fair amount of distance. Up to $1500 per person total.

    I’ll check out both suggestions.

  20. For the first time we had a nice family visit for Christmas and week after. There was no drama which was great. Our family stayed in a hotel while the inlaws stayed at BILs house. The other BIL and family didn’t come, so less people and our hotel stay made things pleasant. Kids got to see NYC. We will have to do more visits to see more things in detail.
    Rainy weather here. We had both Mondays off. I feel rested, though not looking forward to getting back to the grind. It helps that MLK day is a holiday and a long weekend.
    I was on TOS since 2008. We had a few regular posters who migrated to this site then dropped and I wonder how they are doing. My kids have benefited vastly from the advice posted here.

  21. Austin, I don’t remember what we paid or how long it took when we flew from Ama to Oaxaca, but that probably means neither was very much. It is an interesting region and city. It’s been 20+ years (yikes! Am I that old that i have adult memories from so long ago?) since I went to Antigua, Guatemala, but it was also very nice. I stayed in an RCI timeshare hotel that was just on the edge of town, easy walking distance to markets and tourist sites. That city is a good starting point for day trips, Or there’s Puerto Escondido, which has ruins and also a great beach, but I don’t think it’s as easy to get to. We took a mosquito from Oaxaca, and left by bus through the mountains.

  22. “I ignored the request. I was going to work on it today, but the university administative site that has all the info is down (and the IT people are on holiday, hah!). I will send him an email saying that since it was official vacation week, I wasn’t reading my work email closely.”

    Oh, monotono — send him an email saying that you attempted to download all of the information that he requested *while you were on your vacation*, but that since it was a holiday week, the site was down and IT was on vacation, and so you weren’t able to pull it together.

    This has made me realize that I have also been chatting with all y’all for over ten years as well, as I discovered TOS after returning from having DS and having very little work to do, so c. 2006. Wow!! It’s funny, because I totally still feel like a newbie, given how long many of y’all had been talking before then. :-) Add to the thanks to CoC for keeping this running.

  23. @Austin — we’re going to Puerto Rico this spring break. Not my first choice (in-laws again), but it seems to be both relatively close and relatively affordable.

  24. Rhett, as far as I know she doesn’t. I don’t know what her reasoning is. Today didn’t bother me nearly as much as last week did.

  25. It’s funny but I did think of you all as I did laundry at the hotel and returned home with hardly any dirty laundry.
    I love the commercial waffle maker at the hotel breakfast and I will not be happy if and when they decide to do away with it. They have done away with syrupy strawberries. There is inching towards a healthier breakfast. There were no fruit loops (kids noticed).

  26. The problem is that sick people and elderly people still need care everyday, but I know it is a little different in your type of role. When my mother fell a few years ago, she had no PT or OT for the two weekends because everyone was off for the holidays. This was int he hospital. She was moved to an inpatient rehab facility, and the same thing happened two weeks later for MLK day weekend. I completely understand that everyone in healthcare wants to spend time with their families during the holidays, AND their kids are off…but many services seem to be shut. My mother is back at work, and she works in a hospital so I can see both sides. She did have today off as a holiday because her “office” in the hospital wasn’t open.

  27. Lauren, I completely agree with you on in-patient care. When I was a floor nurse, I had no issue with not getting holidays off. At the place I worked, we just worked our regular schedules and got 8 hours of extra pay for that week. As for my current job, last year, we had Christmas and New Year’s (Fridays) both off as paid holidays, we just had Thanksgiving off, etc, so I don’t see why having holidays for “Christmas observed” and “New Year’s observed” should be any different. We still have triage nurses and on-call providers available.

    Again, I agree with you that in-patient care needs to continue through weekends and holidays. At the place I worked, PT and OT worked holidays just like the nurses and CNAs so there wasn’t that shutdown like your mom experienced. (I hope you raised heck about it, because they were wasting her skilled days in rehab.) My job is no different than a regular doctor’s office – if you’re sick on a holiday, you don’t expect to be able to go to your regular doctor.

    And paid holidays are part of my compensation package. I’d have to dig out my contract to see exactly what it says, but I’m supposed to get a certain number of paid holidays and I lost one for last year and one for this year.

  28. My work closes between Christmas and New Years (although only 3 of those days are holidays, so we have to use our vacation for the rest). Thanks to our use-it-or-lose-it policy, and my hitting a new vacation level this year, I had days to use up, so I have been off since the 16th. I have been staying up past midnight and sleeping til 9 every day. I am hating the thought of getting up at 5:30 tomorrow morning. If I could retire at full salary, I could definitely get used to living on my own schedule.

  29. DD, I couldn’t raise a stink because she had the surgery in the hospital where she works. The rehab place is awesome, and they turn people down for spots so she didn’t want me to complain.

    I have been in your situation when Christmas and New Years fall on a Saturday because the banks do not close for the extra day on Monday. I know it stinks when everyone else seems to be off.

  30. Lauren – this is actually a complaint that comes up in emergency medicine flow meetings – hospitals need to have all services all the time. When they don’t it has weird downstream effects. Patients get admitted on Fridays for cardiac evaluations that can’t be performed until Monday (but they are unable to go home). ORs sit empty on Fridays because patients can’t get appropriate weekend care. http://www.hospitalovercrowding.com/the-247-hospital-and-smooth.html

  31. MBT – I altered my sleep/wake schedule by several hours this holiday, too. I’ve not done that before – not since maybe college. Started back in on my early mornings yesterday, so today isn’t quite the killer it might have been.

    I don’t mind being up early, but I will miss being able to stay up later.

    Hope your day goes well!

  32. I echo the thanks to Cost of College – I know that it is a lot more work than it appears! Thank you!

  33. Thank you for all the shows of appreciation! I enjoy doing this and with a standardized process in place it actually does not take up very much time.

    MM — Maybe you should consider moving to France! New Law Could Let French Workers Ignore After-Hours Email

    I thought most people were not in the office yesterday, but it sounds as if many more than I thought were working. I did see this on Twitter this morning:

    I’ve lived in blissful ignorance for the past ten days. And now I’m glancing at my calendar and freaking the f out.

  34. “And now I’m glancing at my calendar and freaking the f out”

    What is that referring to? Politically? The upcoming inauguration?

    Unrelated, I was perusing the MMM forum and was laughing at this thread about someone needing another car. Married couple with a kid in Austin. They have a 10-year-old Kia minivan that they bought as a frugal camper (of course). But now the wife uses that to get to work, and the husband just wants a second car to get around, and wants to spend $4-$5k.

    They could not possibly be more reasonable. And yet:

    Break your lease and move. It will be much cheaper than buying another car and commuting 600 miles a month.


    On days that you will actually need the car while your wife is at work (and only on those days) drop her off and pick her up. Otherwise, wait at home for your chance to use the car. In the direst emergencies, she might have to very occasionally rescue you by driving home over the lunch hour.

    Those days will not include any day your car need might be a result of spontaneously wanting handful of lottery tickets and a six-pack, or the like.


  35. What is that referring to? Politically? The upcoming inauguration?

    Interesting how people read things differently. I didn’t read it as having anything to do with politics. I read it as the normal being out of touch while on vacation and then getting hit with the reality of all the crap you have to do when you go back to work and dealing with kids’ activities and such.

  36. I read it the same was DD did, because I had the same experience – 10 days with no looking at a calendar (and barely looking at a watch), only to turn the page yesterday and be slapped with reality. Ouch!

  37. Milo, that’s hilarious.

    I remember reading a lot of articles/blog posts and such years back about “can you afford to go back to work after having a baby?” with the thrust that when you factored in all the expenses from working, the spouse with the lower income (usually the wife of course) would be making about $2 an hour. Among the many (IMO) flaws in the calculations was they always assumed the family didn’t need a second car if a there was a SAH parent. I just never figured out how any of the families in our circle (some with SAH parents, some without) would be able to make it work with only one car unless the SAH parent would drag the kids out every morning to drive the working partner to work, and then go back later to pick them up. And for that reason alone, having a second car would be worth the money.

  38. Milo,

    It looks like they already told him to use RideAustin (Austin’s answer to Uber and Lyft). Zipcar could also work.

  39. Any Homeland fans? SHO released the first episode of the new season a couple of weeks early. We watched it, and I am not sure how I feel about this season being based in NY.
    I was just about to give up the Affair because I didn’t like watching it this season, but this week’s episode was great.

  40. Lauren thanks for the Homeland heads up. Will have to see whether we still have that network.
    I must say that I very much dislike having to watch these programs on their schedule instead of mine. Wait s week for a new episode? Really. THAT should be “Out” for 2017.

  41. “It looks like they already told him to use RideAustin (Austin’s answer to Uber and Lyft). Zipcar could also work.”

    It could work, but so does owning your own, inexpensive car. I think the frugal MMM types are ideologically biased to think that any alternative to ownership is preferable*.

    He’s already insured as a driver. On a cheap car, you don’t need comprehensive coverage. Any property taxes are based on assessed value, so they’re next to nothing. Just let the poor guy buy a second car.

    *I imagine that any time you start paying for parking, the calculus shifts.

    ” I just never figured out how any of the families in our circle (some with SAH parents, some without) would be able to make it work with only one car unless the SAH parent would drag the kids out every morning to drive the working partner to work, and then go back later to pick them up.”

    It works in an earlier age when you went grocery shopping once a week, but otherwise kids took the bus to and from school, and played around their own neighborhoods. Not only would a lot of the kids’ activities need to be scrapped, but Mom’s not going to be popping into the classroom to volunteer.

    When cars used to be sold for parts and crushed at 100,000 miles, you can make it work. But there’s just no longer any reason for that deprivation:

  42. . I think the frugal MMM types are ideologically biased to think that any alternative to ownership is preferable*.

    On the other hand, you’re ideologically biased toward the idea that driving 25k miles a year is totally normal.

  43. “driving 25k miles a year is totally normal.”

    Well, it is! Google says that the average person drives 15,000 miles a year.


    That’s counting resident college students and retirees. We know that there’s something like a 60% labor force participation rate, so if you wanted to guess how many miles the average middle-aged full-time-employed person drives, 25,000 miles would be a conservative estimate.

  44. We live in a neighborhood where a number of families have one car. (We have four, but we just made the switch to cloth napkins, so I think it cancels out). The way it works around here is that the working parent primarily doesn’t use a care – works from home, takes the bus, bikes. Most families can walk their kids to school, and if you are picky, you can have all your extracurricular within walking or biking distance.

    On the other hand, I agree that they should get a second cheap car. The per-mile cost is so small. We waited far to long to go from 1 to 2 cars, and it was not worth all the inconvenience for the money and carbon saved. Perhaps I’m overcompensating now with my Suburban.

  45. I think that average is skewed by people like Mr WCE’s uncle, who drove 150k in a year for his business.

  46. Well, it is!

    MMM would point out that many are also people are up to their ears in debt and with little to no retirement savings. His idea is that it’s all related.

  47. “MMM would point out that many are also people are up to their ears in debt and with little to no retirement savings. His idea is that it’s all related.”

    MMM and his ilk like to talk about the proverbial daily Starbucks latte. There’s some truth to that.

    But what the commenters are doing is taking the criticism of the daily Starbucks latte and telling anyone who wants to buy an economy-sized triple can pack of Maxwell House or Chock Full ‘O Nuts from Costco that they’re wasting their money! That Scion for under $5k with less than 100k on the odometer is the equivalent of this:


  48. It works in an earlier age when you went grocery shopping once a week, but otherwise kids took the bus to and from school, and played around their own neighborhoods. Not only would a lot of the kids’ activities need to be scrapped, but Mom’s not going to be popping into the classroom to volunteer.

    I was thinking about preschool aged kids. Once the kids are in school, the SAH savings argument really falls apart because you’re not paying for full-time daycare, just before and/or after school care, which is much less. Mom (yes it could be Dad but all these articles assumed it was Mom) is at home all day with the kids. In most areas, she needs a car to take the kids to the doctor, run all the errands, take the kids to playgroups and whatnot. Although I realize that the MMM types expect that Mom isn’t going to do anything that actually costs money.

  49. @Milo — that’s a good one. It really shows how much value judgment there is in even purportedly economic decisions. I read one recently where people were actually advising someone to sell a house he had just bought to avoid a 20-mile highway commute (that he shared with his wife, who worked at the same place), Because Savings. Finally one guy basically said, dude, your car gets 40-50 mpg, so it’s costing you like $50/month, it’ll cost a lot more than that to sell the house.

  50. I know a few families who have had only one vehicle and in every case, the at-home parent has the vehicle and the working parent (whose needs are predictable) walks, bikes, motorbikes or takes a bus to work. I agree with Milo that when parking is not an issue, the marginal cost to get from point A to point B can be quite low, mostly gas and insurance.

  51. Milo,

    That Scion is still (at the very least) $500/month at 25k a year. A latte a day is $90.

  52. LfB – And in the same thread that people are telling him not to buy a second car, a bunch of others are saying to think about a used Prius, or even leasing a Nissan Leaf!! (Either could be fine, but the poor guy just wants the most basic, cheapest transportation possible. If he’s looking at a Yaris or Fit that gets 40 mpg for occasional driving, wtf possible benefit is he really going to get by insisting on a Prius that gets 50 mpg — recognizing, of course, that mpg is kind of a misleading, inverse metric).

  53. If he’s looking at a Yaris or Fit

    I would add that he should look at a Cruze, Focus, Elantra etc.. There’s less of a need to pay a premium for a super durable car if he’s driving 3500 miles a year not to mention that the extra Honda/Toyota durability is totally accounted for in the price.

  54. “I would add that he should look at a Cruze, Focus, Elantra etc.. ”

    I would agree with that. Then again, my brother’s new’ish Elantra was having some sort of weird engine problem, still under Hyundai’s very generous warranty, and then the dealer finally decided to just replace the whole engine.

  55. Even I say the guy ought to buy the car, unless there is a different way to commute to work. Saving operating expenses on a second car just shifts them to the one car, and there is opportunity cost to the chauffeur’s time. All the driving back and forth uses more resources than a simple commute. But my first choice remains setting things up so you don’t have to drive to/from work.

  56. The families who successfully have one vehicle here tend to have at least one partner with a very stable geographic place of employment (hospital, university, possibly company). It’s something I never thought about when choosing a career field.

  57. When I was very little, Mom used to drive Dad to the train station and pick him up after work. I came along too, but remember, in 1963, you just picked your kid up and tossed her in the back seat. No seatbelts, even. Not that difficult.

  58. My eldest has been trying out “Dad” occasionally, as opposed to “Daddy,” possibly expecting some sort of reaction from me. I don’t care at all, but I’ve known some women who will say “No, I’m not ready to be ‘Mom’,” the problem being that it means their kids are no longer little.

  59. We had one car when we both took the train to the city – dropped DD off at day care on the way to the station, and whichever one of us got home first took DD to pick the other up, or that person walked home (under a mile).

    We realized it wouldn’t work once we had a newborn and toddler that would have to be woken up to get the later-returning spouse, especially since that winter we had several feet of snow.

    I know quite a few families that still do it, as long as one spouse takes the train and can walk or bike back from the station.

  60. I read MMM and it would feasibly work to have one car if there was a stay at home parent as most everything is walkable/bikeable, but why? I keep my commute within 5 miles and that makes me happy. I think I like Rhett’s advice better to just focus on making more money to afford another car. DH uses his car for work a lot and I often have lunch meetings or out of office meetings. If I could go back in time, I would have purchased a used standard hatchback for the Au Pair to use because she crashed my car but live and learn. Even with adding a third driver, I think our household collectively drives 15,000 miles per year total. I live in my bubble and if something happens outside of it, it’s probably not worth doing.

  61. Besides genes and the things Finn has listed –avoiding famine, war, car accidents–money also increases your years. You can afford to live in a place without a physically toxic environment, go to the doc when something needs minor repairs, before it affects other systems, hire people or go to places that help you exercise regularly and ina way that is right for your body, eat healthier food….. This effect is more pronounced in the Us than in Western Europe.

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