No Summer Plans Yet

worried guyNow that the semester is ending (lucky undergrads/professional students!) and spring is in the air, we are getting lots of questions from friends and family about what our plans are for the summer.  We are going to Boston over Memorial Day for a wedding (we are taking our own advice and crashing with a friend!) but we haven’t made any other definite plans.  We have been invited to a wedding over July 4th weekend in Madison, WI that we would like to attend but we haven’t yet RSVP’d or booked tickets/lodging.  Last summer and the prior one we vacationed with my family-of-origin so it feels a bit odd to be without any plans on that front.  Some of Kyle’s relatives are taking a cruise to Alaska in August that we could jump in on but we are hesitant.  Why are we unable to commit?  Because Kyle is drawing very close to graduating but still doesn’t have a defense date or a job.




At this point Kyle’s defense date will be completely determined by his committee’s availability.  It’s difficult to get five professors together in one room – let alone during the summer! – so we are trying to avoid adding in another limiting schedule by keeping Kyle’s totally open.  There literally might only be 1 day that works out of the entire 4-month period, one committee member might have to change his travel schedule to be back in town for the defense, or it might not be possible until the fall semester. Until that date is set we don’t want to schedule any dates for us to be out of town.  Plus, he will be working very very hard writing his dissertation and preparing his defense presentation so we likely won’t take any time away (except for these weddings) before his defense, but after it’s over we will be much more flexible.




Another big set of uncertainties are what job Kyle will have next year, where he will be living, what he will earn, and how long of a break he will take between finishing grad school and starting his postdoc.  Best case scenario: He will be get a reasonable increase in pay (after adjusting for cost of living) and only take a little time off.  Worst case scenario: He will have a large break and his pay raise will be eaten up by a cost-of-living increase.  In the latter case, we’ll have to cut way back on spending and/or go through some savings to keep afloat (which is fine – that’s what it’s there for!) but it’s pretty difficult to justify a nice vacation under those circumstances.  We’ll likely be spending a lot traveling to see one another while we live apart, and a vacation could be swapped out for several visits.


I’ll feel so much better when all this shakes out!  I really don’t deal well with uncertainty – not just about vacations but about the employment/distance/timing part of this situation.  But I would really love to take a vacation at some point this summer; I’m such a planner that it feels strange to not have much on the calendar by now!


What are your summer plans and when did/will you make them?  Have you ever had a season of life during which you couldn’t make plans because of uncertainty?  When you are facing possible unemployment, do you beef up your EF or just hope for the best?


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52 Responses to "No Summer Plans Yet"

  1. Pauline says:

    I generally hope for the best haha! I believe if you reach a critical level you will excel at finding extra money and gigs. No plans for the summer, I am taking a month holiday now, summer is rainy season in Guatemala so not the best but we should catch up on land development work.
    Pauline recently posted..Help me help a reader get on track with her finances

    1. Emily says:

      I hope you’re enjoying your time away now! We are keeping the spectrum of possibilities in mind until things get nailed down but the best case scenario is what we’re hoping for!

  2. If I were you id hold off too
    good. It will probably work out just fine, but you don’t want to spend money you’ll need. Plus what’s wrong with a fall vacation?
    im headed to the appalacian trail this june, should be an adventure!
    Ross @ CashRebel recently posted..Making Frugality Happen One Meal at a Time

    1. Emily says:

      You are right about the fall vacation! We are not really tied to the academic year any longer, but there is less expectation of being around during the summer. I have a committee meeting in September so maybe if Kyle has defended by then we can go for a trip after both our meetings.

      Are you hiking all or part of the trail or visiting one spot?

  3. I’d wait until Kyle’s defense date is finalized to take any kind of long term break. When I was scheduling my defense, it was a nightmare trying to get 5 people in a room at the same time and I had to pounce on whatever open spot they had. Plus there was a bunch of stupid defense bureaucracy I had to wade through, forms to sign, dates to have the dissertation written by, etc. After the defense, you two should do something awesome. Kyle deserves it.
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    1. Emily says:

      We have 2 responses back and the entire summer is already excluded. 🙁 How do these people travel so much?! The grad school rules on the eligible dates are annoying – Kyle has told me can’t defend between the last summer date (Jul 26) and when classes resume (last week in Aug) but I sort of don’t believe him because that’s such a long blocked-out period!

      I asked Kyle if he wants to go one a Big Vacation to celebrating finishing and he said he’d rather buy Stuff! So it might be the only way I can get a trip out of this is to spin it as a summer vacation! 🙂

  4. I’m the same way, I don’t deal well with uncertainty either. We don’t have too many summer plans at the moment. I do know we will be making a tip our to Boston in July, but other than that we’re keeping open.

    I know my place of work is going through a hiring freeze for some departments, and it they aren’t replacing some people who are leaving, which makes me a little nervous.Right now, I’m trying to beef up our EF as best as possible, but since we’re at a very limited income at the moment I mostly hope for the best.
    Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries recently posted..10 Year Game Plan

    1. Emily says:

      Probably your workplace is trying to protect current employees by instituting the hiring freeze, right? I would hope, anyway. What EF size are you going for?

      1. You’re probably correct about the hiring freeze. Right now we’re at $1000 (which would get us through about 2/3 of a month). I’m fairly confident that I could find another job, even if it doesn’t pay as well, in a couple weeks which should help stretch things out. I would love to eventually have $5000 saved.
        Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries recently posted..10 Year Game Plan

  5. I don’t like uncertainty either! Who does though? We are moving to TX this summer and are still looking for a job for me/apt. Yikes! I think you guys keeping an open schedule will make your lives a lot less stressful! Good luck with the summer planning! (well, as much planning as you can do.)

    1. Emily says:

      I dunno, I kinda think other people must deal with it better than I do! Kyle definitely does. When is your move date and do you need to secure a job before you arrive?

  6. Matt Becker says:

    Sounds like you guys are handling this as responsibly as you can. Boston will be beautiful over Memorial Day. There’s lot of free things you can do around the city. It’s extremely walkable. I think you’ll like it!
    Matt Becker recently posted..The Basics of Estate Planning

    1. Emily says:

      We’ve been to Boston a few times before and done the touristy things so this time around we are going to focus on seeing our friends who are also traveling there for the wedding we’re attending. Maybe we will go to some iconic locations with our friends, though. I definitely like Boston in the spring over Boston in the winter!!!!

  7. It seems my last four years have been filled with that uncertainty, but I agree that the stress of a possible financially burden would make me want to chill and kind of see what happens. I think you will enjoy your time off more knowing you don’t have to stress about money too.
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..Ever been bullied into buying something?

    1. Emily says:

      I don’t envy you this type of uncertainty because at least we have my position to count on! You are so right that we will enjoy a vacation more when we know Kyle’s start date and such.

  8. Vacation, what’s that? Haha. We are going to a wedding in September and will visit with family then, but other than that we haven’t traveled anywhere since the last wedding, two years ago.

    You might consider me an expert on unemployment at this point. I always try to save up the expenses I’ll have during my time off before putting any excess money into debt repayment.
    The important thing to remember is that the money saved in your emergency fund is there to be used when it is needed. There its NO point in saving money that you have no intention of ever using.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Should the SEC Regulate Social Media?

    1. Emily says:

      Good food for thought, Edward. Though I guess I would ask myself what if an emergency happened during the emergency? Like health or auto stuff while unemployed.

      We haven’t taken a trip of our own planning since our honeymoon 3 years ago and I think finishing a PhD is a good reason to do one! We love going to weddings and family events but all that stuff crowds out what we would like to do on our own.

      1. Therein lies the rub, doesn’t it. I know exactly what you mean, because it had happened to me. You do have other savings. They may be for that purpose, but if you have to use them, you have to use them.
        At the end of the day, if a post-doc isn’t forthcoming, Kyle can always go the time honored route of working a low-paying, part-time job while he searches. It isn’t glamorous, but you do what you have to do to pay the bills.
        Edward Antrobus recently posted..Cheesy Taco Casserole: Cinco de Mayo Recipe

        1. Emily says:

          I have a post upcoming on just such ideas for how to earn some $ while waiting on the postdoc to be found/start. 🙂 You are right that there is other money we can repurpose so in the end it doesn’t matter if it’s in the EF or outside – if it needs to be used it will be used.

  9. I am a true planner at heart, so this would be difficult for me. There have been times where we couldn’t plan because we just didn’t know what would be going on later down the road and that was tough for me. You make the best of every situation and get through it, so you will be fine.
    Grayson @ Debt RoundUp recently posted..When I Would Rather Spend Than Save

    1. Emily says:

      I’m glad to know others have been through similar situations! This is the first time for me – in all previous transitions I was just responsible for myself and I had my next job lined up 5-6 months before my current position ended so I knew my location and salary already and could plan off those.

  10. Michelle says:

    I don’t do well with uncertainty either, so I know how you feel. I do have a couple of vacations planned for this year, with one of them still being up in the air. I hope W can get off work!
    Michelle recently posted..Home Updates: How We Plan on Selling Our House Quickly

    1. Emily says:

      Does he have to clear his vacation schedule with someone or is it just up to him?

  11. Sophie says:

    I definitely save more and spend less when facing uncertainty – isn’t it human nature to start bunkering down when the storm clouds approach?
    Sophie recently posted..Personal Finance: Breaking Up With My Insurance Provider

    1. Emily says:

      Haha, yes, but we’re not actually trying to save more, just not spend extravagantly!

  12. Is Kyle allowed to have Skype for defense? My MIL has been part of a couple of dissertation defenses that had one party or another on skype due to scheduling mishaps. But I definitely think you guys are right to keep Kyle’s schedule open until you can get that pinned down.

    Summer for us is pretty nice. We’ll have family in town for several months, but won’t be taking any big vacations. Just work! (That’s what the non-academic calendar is like!!)
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..I’m Riding A Bike To Work!

    1. Emily says:

      Kyle can have one committee member Skype in, except for his advisor – and his advisor’s travel schedule is part of the problem. 🙂 It seems most profs leave for at least a month or two in the summer.

      You have family in town for several months? What’s the occasion?

  13. Thanks for the reminder that I need to get things in gear for summer plans. I’d like to take some time off and visit family/friends, but have to get those plans finalized. Time is running out! Frankly, despite being an organized person overall (I think), I do tend to procrastinate vacations, which one would think is the last thing anyone would want to procrastinate.
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    1. Emily says:

      I am surprised that you would procrastinate planning vacations! Some people fantasize about them all year round!

  14. Leigh says:

    That sounds super frustrating! My summer plans mostly involve reading (free) books on my lounge chair on my balcony and eating dinner out there every night 🙂 I will make one weekend trip for a wedding in the summer and maybe another weekend trip somewhere, but that’s it until my Japan trip in September. A nice, quiet summer after last year 🙂

    I’m not sure whether I’ll stay at my big company for more than another two years, so I’ll probably start stashing money in index funds after this year is over and I have 50% in equity in my condo instead of stashing the money in the mortgage. That’ll give me some more flexibility if/when I do leave and I can always cash in the index funds later and pay down the mortgage. By doing that for two years, I should be able to stash away about $100,000, which would be a nice nest egg if I go work at a startup and lose my bonuses and job stability.
    Leigh recently posted..April 2013 net worth update (+2.0%)

    1. Emily says:

      That sounds like a lovely plan for summer! I have a growing stack of library books to read as well. For how long will you be in Japan?

      How does your plan of beefing up your liquid savings mesh with paying off your mortgage within 5 years? Would you have your job situation re-settled in time to create another payoff plan? Would you want to work at the kind of start-up where you have no salary at all? It seems that even a much lower salary (with upside potential) would still provide for your budget since you don’t spend your bonuses.

      1. Leigh says:

        Two weeks in Japan! Should be fun!

        If the startup has any level of funding, I think I should be able to get my base pay now (just not the RSUs/bonuses). I would definitely consider working at a startup with no salary post-FI! Not prior though. That’s one of the many options I expect FI to open up, especially if I don’t have kids 🙂

        I think that paying off the mortgage within five years could still happen, we’ll see. Even if I lose my RSUs with a startup job (I assume I would get the same base pay), I should still be able to save about $30k after 401(k) and Roth IRA. That isn’t enough to keep up with the five year mortgage payoff plan and isn’t quite a year’s worth of expenses either. I’m not comfortable with the idea of not saving at least a full year’s expenses over the course of a year, so I’d rather have a bit more of a liquid stash.

        I’ve calculated that I should have enough in my 401(k) to last me from 59 1/2 through 90 if I keep contributing the max through the end of 2016. So if my salary drops enough after that point to not being able to max out the 401(k), that’s not the end of the world.
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  15. Suba says:

    No vacations for us this year. Buying a house sucks all the money we have in hand. Our summer plans are to explore our new city and make every weekend a “staycation”.

    My sister just defended (she is @ your university btw) and I know it took her a long time to get everyone to agree on a date. She started in January to get a March end date.
    Suba recently posted..Buying a home: What do you want in your new house?

    1. Emily says:

      I think that’s a great goal for the summer since you are in a new place! And I’m sure it’s worth it to be in the new house.

      That was my timeline on getting my committee together for my preliminary exam. ARE YOU COMING TO TOWN FOR GRADUATION? Probably not since you didn’t mention it in your summer plans. 🙁

  16. We are planning a getaway vacation this summer somewhere beachy for the kids to enjoy. And we would like to take a break from work and make use of our vacation leaves. We’re not sure where to yet but we’re getting there.
    KC @ genxfinance recently posted..Try Before You Buy

    1. Emily says:

      Somewhere beachy sounds awesome! 🙂

  17. Boston in May is GORGEOUS. We went last year and I would love the chance to go back. The two things I recommend are 1. canoeing in the Concord River (just take the train out to Concord – I think it cost us $12/ticket?) and 2. eating at the Boston Public Library. A fixed priced lunch is under $20 a person and one of the best values in the city, in my humble opinion. You can see some pictures of canoeing and BPL in this post
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    1. Emily says:

      Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll pass them onto my friends. Some of them live in Boston currently and I wonder if they’ve ever done those activities.

  18. SarahN says:

    Couldn’t agree more with “I really don’t deal well with uncertainty”!! I have no holiday plans (this year I’d usually visit the states in summer… or somewhere, and nothing’s booked). I have no real career plan… who knows. All so up in the air!
    SarahN recently posted..Waste Wednesday update

  19. I STRONGLY DISLIKE UNCERTAINTY. Seriously, it makes me extremely anxious. I am a control freak. No joke.

    1. Emily says:

      I am the same. 🙁 This is a big learning experience for me. I think it’s good though because I anticipate getting pregnant/raising a human will be an enormous challenge in terms of me having a terribly high desire for control and absolutely no chance of enacting any.

  20. E 2 says:

    Good luck! That uncertainty is scary, and being so dependent on one to three people to start the next step of life can be really frustrating. It sounds like you are well-prepared for it, though.

    My summer plans are fairly drab – I was originally going to teach and research a bit, visit family in 3-4 different places, and go on the belated European honeymoon trip we’ve been saving for, but I got a summer work opportunity that runs from next week to Sept 1…so no time off for me. (The husband will be going to Europe for a conference, and perhaps visiting family for a few days without me.) I’m bummed about missing out on family and putting off the vacation, and I won’t earn much at this job because it will require a long, expensive commute, but I’m hoping it may be a foot in the door toward a non-academic career.

    Uncertainty is getting us too – I would really like to leave grad school and find a new job, but with my husband probably graduating next spring, we may be relocating to wherever HE gets a postdoc, so maybe I should wait, stay a funded student, and aim the job search at wherever we end up. That’s over a year away though, so it’s hard to be patient and keep working on research as I become increasingly convinced it’s not for me long term. (So glad this is anonymous! Being extra anonymous today.)

    1. Emily says:

      That stinks that you are not getting to go on the trips you planned, but I certainly hope the sacrifice pays off in useful job experience/connections.

      Sounds like you are in a similar spot to me and Kyle but graduating in the reverse order! I honestly wouldn’t want Kyle to stick around here and stay a student just for me (I mean, stick around sure but please move on to a post-PhD job!) because I just can’t be sure that I’ll graduate in the time frame we’re hoping for. It would suck to be apart for longer if it does take me longer to graduate, but I would feel so much worse if I was delaying Kyle’s graduation/career progress as well. That would be a LOT of pressure. One of the couples in the LTM study had planned to be apart for 1 year (for the trailing spouse to finish his PhD) and it turned into 3 years! But I also hear what you’re saying about only conducting one job search and having it be targeted to your new area instead of having to get a job and start searching again almost immediately.

      Since you aren’t sure about continuing in research (and I’m pretty convinced I don’t want to!) it really is great that you’re able to take this other job and gain some different experience. I keep telling myself I should be looking for volunteer opportunities around my university that would give me a bit of experience in applying my PhD to Something Else but I haven’t gotten my act together to pursue any! I guess I’ve been thinking I’ll put off my job search until after Kyle settles on his postdoc so I have an idea of what the opportunities are in that city, but that’s not a super great reason.

      I’m glad to know we’re not alone. :/ If you wanted to graduate now, could you? We had thought Kyle had been ready for 1-2 years but this end part of the process is really dragging out with scheduling and writing and finding a job.

      1. E 2 says:

        We’re in the same situation as you and Kyle, with my husband finishing a year earlier than me, unless I drop out! I definitely couldn’t graduate now, I’d have to call the last 2 years of research a wash, but the price of finishing would be 2 more years. (I think I can probably write a full draft in one more year, but my advisor will almost certainly require another year of revisions. I will either try to do those while working, or if I get a good enough job, possibly even decide that it’s never too late to quit.)

        My husband doesn’t necessarily want to make me stick around in school, but he really wants to finish and needs to be around for lab work, and our school isn’t in an area with a good job market. Many of our friends have spent six months to a year or more job-searching in the area or found positions in the nearest big city (where I will be commuting this summer – about 2 hours each way). After a year of long distance, and a summer with a really long commute, slogging through another year of research might be worth it just to be in the same place! Also, I’m not sure that less than a year of work experience would be THAT much more helpful toward finding a job in a new place. On the bright side, I have been able to get some kind of at least vaguely relevant work experience almost every year I’ve been in grad school, and will try to continue this year.

        I so agree that it’s good to know you’re not alone, and the more I’ve talked about this to others, the more I realize we’re not. The good thing, for both of us, is that being students another year, we should have access to university career counseling resources, resume writing help, alumni networks, etc. to be really well-positioned for the job search by the time it comes around. I’m planning to do a lot of prep and informational interviewing over the next year.

        1. Emily says:

          ITA about taking advantage of the university’s resources in our remaining time! It’s really quite wonderful. Almost nobody in my program wants to be an academic so I have lots of company on the “alternative careers” route but I think most of the them want to keep doing research so there’s less company on the use-the-PhD-but-in-a-non-field-specific-way route.

          I kept thinking “sunk costs are irrelevant” through your first couple paragraphs! But it’s so so hard to practice that. I think I would finish out the PhD from this point forward even if I really didn’t want to because of sunk costs. I did an evaluation in 2010, when it would have made sense for me to leave with a master’s, and determined that I really did want the PhD for the job opportunities it creates (chiefly, the opportunity to do science policy). I just have to kind of hold on to that determination through the end!

          1. E 2 says:

            Yeah, I agree that sunk costs are irrelevant, but it’s the future cost tradeoff that really gets me! Is another year or two of research that will likely become a sunk cost itself better or worse than unemployment for an unknown length of time? I think this is definitely clearer in a field like yours, when you know that the PhD can open specific doors; it’s definitely a toss-up for me, and that’s where the quality-of-life aspect of staying in school becomes more persuasive.

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