We’re Evolving!: Our Next Transition

When we founded EPF in 2011, a major component of is purpose was to keep us financially honest during our several anticipated life transitions. Well, it took until 2014 for the first one to occur, but now we seem to be on a roll.


Transition #1: Kyle defended and became a postdoc in the same lab he did his PhD in. Essentially the only change was a salary bump.


Transition #2: I defended and became funemployed. The major change was going from having a salary to earning a much lower amount of irregular income.


Transition #3: I was accepted to the fellowship program that I applied for back in August! There are two major changes with this transition: I will again receive a stipend and I’ll be living in the DC area for the duration of the fellowship (3 months).





My Next Gig


The fellowship is in science policy, which is a career that I am quite interested in, so this is a great low-commitment introduction to the field and resume-builder. Kyle will stay in Durham for his postdoc. We plan to see one another most weekends. I will need to be at work M-F but Kyle might be able to negotiate some remote work time to possibly extend some of the weekend visits.


It feels good to have something come through even though I haven’t really been applying for work and therefore haven’t really been putting myself on the line. It’s a full-time fellowship but it only lasts for twelve weeks. I’m going to consider myself funemployed until I have a full-time job with no end date.



Change in Income


The fellowship provides a stipend of $8,500, which is basically just supposed to cover living expenses. 🙂 For the length of the employment period, the stipend is more than what I earned as a grad student but less than what Kyle earns as a postdoc. I’m going to receive the full stipend during orientation, which is going to be my first time not receiving monthly pay. Much better to get it at the beginning than the end, though!


My funemployment hasn’t been particularly lucrative – less so than I had hoped, really – so it is a major improvement to have this stipend. I think I will still continue with my contract job, but take only a fraction of the assignments that I have been, so that won’t be much of an income stream. I would like to keep working on my funemployment projects of Grad Student Finances and my PF seminars, but I’m not sure if they will result in any income during that period.



Change in Expenses


Over Thanksgiving weekend, I worked out my living arrangement in the DC area: my parents’ house. 🙂 I am VERY fortunate that they are willing to put me up rent-free. (The last time I lived with them, I did pay a rent-equivalent.) My parents live in the Virginia suburbs of DC so I will have a commute but it won’t be unreasonable. Living in DC would probably cost me $1,000/month in rent and even where my parents live rooms go for around $600/month, so this arrangement is helping me not-spend a bunch of money. Instead of reclaiming my childhood bedroom (now a guest room), I’ll be living in the basement suite, so I’ll have my own bathroom and more privacy and so forth.


Our new costs will be in commuting (both daily into DC and weekly to Durham), a professional wardrobe for me, an inexpensive gym membership, and some additional going-out expenses as I will be trying to get to know my fellowship class, network, and make new friends. I also wouldn’t be surprised if our spending on groceries rises a little as we won’t be able to share condiments and such and might not buy as many items in bulk.


The big question mark on our Durham expenses is whether or not Kyle will bring a roommate into the second bedroom in our current townhouse. I’m for it and Kyle’s against it. Having a roommate to split the rent and utilities with would help us not-spend at least $500/month, which would really help toward offsetting the new costs.





We are planning to keep fully joint finances while we are living apart, both because that’s what we want for our money generally and because this is such a short period of time that it’s not worthwhile to change any account structures.


I’m not sure if we’ll have a proper monthly budget that limits our spending in various areas. I definitely don’t want to go crazy with spending so we will keep tracking and reporting, but we seem to be in a low-spending habit right now so I kind of trust us.


I’ve drafted the numbers on whether we would be able to just bank the discretionary portion of my stipend and live on our ongoing monthly income. Even with Kyle taking on a roommate, it would be a big challenge to live on just Kyle’s income. We would probably have to be pretty tight with our spending in terms of the transportation costs, groceries, and going out and possibly spend significant time on our side hustles to generate a bit more income. There are just a lot of unknowns at this point in terms of our transportation costs and increased food spending.



Although living apart from Kyle will stink, I’m glad for both the work opportunity and the change in routine. Even the shake-up in our finances should be entertaining for us and you!


Have you ever lived apart from your spouse and if so did you take on a roommate? Do you live on one spouse’s income alone? Have you ever been paid in a lump sum for a work period longer than a month?


photo by Nicolas Raymond


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Filed under: budgeting, career, funemployment, housing, income · Tags: , , , ,

36 Responses to "We’re Evolving!: Our Next Transition"

  1. That’s a quite transition Emily. I must congratulate you for your next gig and good luck on your income and expenses. I agree with you that we all need to record and track every expenses we will do this month, as this will be the busiest and the most difficult, I speculate, month we’ll have this year.
    Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..Why you need to go on holidays

    1. Emily says:

      Yes, December is always tough – especially for the majority of us who do not holiday shop in advance! We are traveling for two weeks in December, which correlates with higher eating out and entertainment spending. Best of luck!

  2. Alicia says:

    Great job on the Fellowship! It sounds really interesting to me – I might have to pick your brain after you’ve completed it, because science policy is so intriguing to me. I talk about social licence and policy in my work a lot, but it’s very abstract compared to an entire fellowship on science policy.

    I haven’t received a lump sum like that before, and I know if I was younger it would have proved a little bit difficult. Now, it would be fine locked up in a savings account pulling out however much I needed to live on.

    Also, I might be with Kyle on the roommate thing. Is the $1,500 in rent going to make or break you? It’s a huge adjustment to go back to roommates, especially since it’s been just the two of you since you’ve been married. And since it’s going to be Kyle who is dealing with it, I think he should make the call, personally.
    Alicia recently posted..Financial Update: November 2014

    1. Emily says:

      Please do! Leaving the science policy career path as an option is one of the reasons I finished my PhD.

      I don’t think the lump sum will be tempting in terms of spending since we do have other savings now. But it will make budgeting rather different! I don’t like having to pull out of savings the way we have this fall, and that pay feels more like savings than cash flow.

      Haha, maybe I will tell you my pro-roommate arguments instead of beating Kyle over the head with them! I mostly feel like it’s wasteful to not have a roommate. We have a 1200 square foot townhouse! And the rent is a higher percentage of Kyle’s income alone than is permissible IMO. I’m not-spending tons of money by living with my parents (which honestly I feel is more of a sacrifice than living with a stranger-roommate) but we’re essentially turning around and blowing all that not-spending by not splitting our Durham rent with someone.

      No, spending an additional $1,500 or so on rent and utilities will not break us. Our finances are pretty robust at this point. But I think after 4 months of me having no income we aren’t in a position to be throwing money away, which is what not having a roommate feels like to me. We have always lived with roommates or each other so having one person live in a home designed for two or more people is a huge departure. And it’s not like this fellowship is a great money-making opportunity – it’s just another stipend. We should continue living like grad students!

      I’ve started thinking of the discretionary portion of our income in terms of how much gross side hustle income it would take to replace. To generate $1,500 in discretionary income, I would have to earn about $4,500 gross. That’s cheating a little because some of that $4,500 goes into long-term savings according to our percentage-based rules, but that’s the ratio I currently use when I think about wasting some amount of money. And that figure is HUGE to me.

  3. So exciting– congrats!! I can’t imagine having to live apart but I guess it’s good knowing that it’s only for a short time!
    Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties recently posted..8 Holiday Gifts that SAVE you Money

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah, I think the 12 weeks will fly by. And we are close enough to visit probably two weekends out of every three. I wouldn’t want to do it with no fixed end date but I really don’t think this will be a problem.

  4. Congrats on the fellowship, Emily! That’s awesome! And, how fabulous that you can stay with your parents. We lived in DC for two years and rent is super expensive–no way around it.

    Long distance is a drag, but at least it’s just for 3 months. Not sure how I’d feel about having a roommate at this stage either, I can understand Kyle’s hesitation. But, the additional income would be nice… You’ll have to keep us posted on what you decide.

    Regarding the new wardrobe–check out resale & thrift shops. Almost all of my business clothes were purchased used for a fraction of the price. And, black pants and dresses with a blazer thrown on top can be re-worn over and over 🙂
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted..November 2014 Expenditures

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks! I’m looking forward to being back in that area. And I’m very glad my parents are subsidizing my stay. 🙂 I understand Kyle’s hesitation regarding having a roommate, too. We’re continuing to discuss it.

      I checked with my supervisor today and the dress will be mostly business casual so I shouldn’t have to buy too many new pieces. Like you said, I’ll just get some things that mix and match well. I definitely don’t want to add a big dry cleaning bill to our other new expenses!

  5. Leigh says:

    Congratulations, Emily! That is very exciting!

    It’s very nice of your parents to not charge you rent! I don’t think mine would either in that situation. It sounds like this fellowship should be good for your finances since you guys aren’t quite able to make ends meet with just Kyle’s postdoc income.
    Leigh recently posted..November 2014 net worth update (+4.8%)

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah, I’m not sure why they are treating the situation differently this time around. It is a shorter time period and their finances are different now, I guess. Plus my siblings have been living with/off them for far longer than I did so maybe that factors in!

      The stipend should help us replenish our savings after my fall funemployment and help us prepare for my summer funemployment. 🙂

  6. Jenna says:

    Congratulations on the internship! I’m sure the 12 weeks will go by in a blink in of an eye, and you’ll have learned so much.
    Jenna recently posted..Brooke’s November Numbers

    1. Emily says:

      It really is a short period of time! There won’t even be time to get used to the new arrangement before I’m back with Kyle, I’m sure.

  7. Gretchen says:

    Congrats Emily! When does it start?

    As far as the roommate situation is concerned, is it a matter of having a stranger as a roommate? Would Kyle feel more comfortable if it was someone he knew? I know that would be tough since most people sign year-long leases, but I was just curious.

    My wardrobe advice is as follows: stick to a color scheme. Everything will match, which will help your wallet and make choosing clothes in the morning way easier. This is especially the case when wearing something with pattern. Also, find a blazer you can wear over tops you already own. I do this all the time with cotton t’s that are too casual for the office. They balance each other out.

    I hope you guys had a good holiday! 🙂

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks! The fellowship starts in mid-January.

      Yes, I think the stranger factor in the potential roommate is the one giving Kyle the most pause. However, as you said, we haven’t talked with anyone who is interested in moving mid-year (we have put out some feelers). I think having a roommate would be easier to swallow if he was an acquaintance or friend of a friend.

      That is good advice! I wish I had followed it the last time I was buying interview clothing, because what I have right now is a hodgepodge. Not sure which color scheme to start to build off of! I do have a blazer already that I’m sure will work over some of my dressier T-shirts – good suggestion!

  8. It might be difficult even to find a roommate who wasn’t sketchy for three months. Maybe you could compromise and see if, by posting it on Craigslist or asking around the grad student list, you could find someone quiet and with some reasonable, non-creepy reason why they need three months of housing (or two months, or one month) — but if you can’t, then forget the roommate and eat the $1500.

    This, however, is cart before the horse stuff: congratulations! What a great opportunity. And yeah, plan to drop $$ on going out with your class — it’s worth it to get to know them. You can be cheap about it: one glass of wine, or just don’t drink at all and ask for glasses of seltzer or coke or whatever.
    Cecilia@thesingledollar recently posted..November update: even better!

    1. Emily says:

      If we do decide to have a roommate, we’ll be flexible with the dates. Most likely we’ll end up with someone who needs housing for the whole spring semester, although I checked out our university’s version of craigslist and there are some visiting scholars on there who need shorter-term housing. I think there should be enough traffic from people who would be there for the semester that we won’t have to resort to anyone sketchy! In the case of a semester stay, I would overlap with the roommate for a week or two in January and about a month at the end of the spring (assuming I move back to Durham at all), which isn’t too bad.

      1. This was the question I was hoping to get the answer to! I was wondering how many people would be interested in a short-term housing situation like this. It sounds like there’s some wiggle room in there, fortunately.
        Ms. Mintly @ MintlyBlog recently posted..November 2014 Recap

        1. Emily says:

          Yes, there are plenty of people who might be interested in a semester rental. Plus, though I didn’t mention it above, we are thinking we will vacate the property entirely during or shortly after this fellowship period, so if the roommate did want to stay and take over the lease that would likely be an option.

  9. Congratulations on the fellowship opportunity! Sounds like it will be a fantastic experience for you. Living apart does stink, but at least Kyle will be able to visit. My fiance flat out refuses to do anything remotely close to long distance, but I’ve been in long distance relationships before. That said, I hate being apart!

    I sometimes get paid lump sums for freelance projects, but since we’re living off of one income and savings at the moment, I treat it normally, and save a portion for taxes. I don’t think either of us would want a roommate, though we have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and it is a great opportunity to offset costs. Looking forward to seeing how things work out!
    Erin @ Journey to Saving recently posted..Being Grateful: Fifty-Third Edition

    1. Emily says:

      Thank you! Kyle and I actually dated long distance for 15 months Durham to DC. Of course things are very different now that we’re married. I’m not sure if it will be harder or easier this time – perhaps harder because we’re accustomed to living together, but perhaps easier because we know we’ll be back together at the end of the period (no chance of breaking up). Either way it will not be as good as being together, but it’s a short time period.

      When I get the stipend we’ll do our normal save-for-taxes (I’ll have to remember to file an estimated return in April), tithe, and Roth IRA transfer. The rest I guess will go into savings and perhaps we’ll draw from it the way we have been this fall, month by month as needed.

      When you say you’re living on one income and savings, do you use the one income, some savings, and the freelance income for your expenses? Or are you saving the freelance income and then pulling from savings to pay expenses?

  10. I’m a stay at home mom, so we live off the one salary now.

    When we first bought our house we had friends living with us to help offset some costs and I really enjoyed having friends close by. It would have been a different scenario with strangers though.
    Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom recently posted..How To Cut Your Own Hair

    1. Emily says:

      I like the idea of living with friends now. Most of my roommates have been strangers (at the start) or acquaintances, and that’s worked out fine, but I think the marriage dynamic might be easier to mesh with people who already know us.

      When did you stop living with roommates in your current house?

  11. Mrs. PoP says:

    Well done with the fellowship!

    I can see Kyle’s reticence to having a roommate – 3 months is an awkward length of time, unless this is a summer internship when that’s a more common visit duration, which I’m not getting the impression it is. Because of that he’s likely to have a lot less leeway over available roommates and if you’re going to live with someone you deserve to be able to be picky about it.

    In lieu of a roommate, I’d consider cutting back visits to every other weekend (maybe monthly?) instead of every weekend. That might not offset all of the $500/mo you were counting on, but probably at least a good chunk to drop down 2 or more visits/month. Also, consider that you might want to have some free time without Kyle as a tagalong to socialize with new colleagues and get to know more about them and their lives/lifestyles, etc outside of work. What happens if there’s a Friday night happy hour that you’re invited to, but Kyle’s always waiting at your parents’ home sitting on the couch? Or worse, bringing him along as you gossip and joke about work stuff with work colleagues who didn’t bring their SOs. Awkward for Kyle… and your work colleagues. =/

    Mr PoP and I dated long distance – varying distances (5 time zones – visits quarterly, an 8 hour train ride – visits every 3 weeks or so, and a 2.5 hour car ride – biweekly) – for about 4.5 years before we got married and made a point to never visit more often than every couple of weeks. It was long enough that it felt like a treat (not a hassle) but short enough that it always felt manageable. Plus it gave us plenty of time to develop our own social circles and identities and the beginnings of our careers outside of being a couple which in hindsight feels like the best part about it… though the $$ savings wasn’t bad, either.
    Mrs. PoP recently posted..PoP Income Statement – November 2014

    1. Emily says:

      Thank you! Yes, the fellowship starts in January. If we do have someone move in, it would probably be for closer to 4 months (the whole spring semester), with a smaller chance we could find someone for 3 months or less. So we might both be living in the townhouse with the roommate, which is obviously something we’ll discuss in advance to make sure everyone is cool with it. We do want to be picky!

      You bring up some very good points about the dynamics of visits. Kyle and I did long-distance for a bit over a year when we were dating (also Durham to DC). I think one of the reasons that was a successful period was that we developed independent identities, as you said. We’ve seen other LDRs falter or fail because of too-frequent visits that keep each person from investing where they are. During that time we visited each other about twice every five weeks.

      I worked up a schedule of potential visits that would basically be two out of every three weekends. I think traveling or ‘hosting’ every weekend would be quite exhausting! We might even cut it back to every other weekend in the latter half of the fellowship, but I’m committed to coming to Durham three weekends in February to attend basketball games!

      As for spending less on the travel, I looked into more MegaBus tickets and even 3 months out they are all already either at unworkable times or very expensive! Grrrr. But I wonder if we can find our way into a carpool group. I know there is one from our university to DC because we have used it in the past, but I wonder if there is one for the reverse way. I’ll have to hook up with the local alumni association chapter and see what they can tell me. But you are right, transportation is going to be one of our major costs during this period and should be examined for potential frugal measures. My dad already offered to help me with my commute, which should cut my cost by 2/3 on the days that I go with him!

  12. We also lived apart for a year when we were married. My husband got a job out of state in August and I was just getting started on a new school year teaching — too late to find another teaching job quickly in a small town! So I focused on earning my National Board certification while he lived three hours away, and we made it work. There was a lot of of weekend traveling (and my husband was lonely – he’s not a go-out-and-meet-people kind of guy), but I had a support system where we were living and that helped me a lot (also, having the National Boards to focus on).

    I agree that traveling is expensive, but we determined that it was an investment in our marriage and decided not to worry about the cost. If anything, it was the time commitment to that travel that made it difficult…

    All that said, this is a great opportunity and 3 months is a relatively short amount of time, as you’ve already stated above. 🙂
    Ms. Mintly @ MintlyBlog recently posted..November 2014 Recap

    1. Emily says:

      That is great that you had a big goal to focus on during your year apart. I’m sure that was both a good distraction and a productive use of the time alone.

  13. […] to have a big interruption over Christmas as we are traveling for two weeks, plus in mid-January I am moving to DC for the next phase of my funemployment, so my goals will look different after that point. So given all the personal stuff going on I know […]

  14. SP says:


    I’m sure you’ll breeze through the long distance – three months isn’t so long. What are kyle’s objections to the roommate? Privacy?

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks! I think his objection is more in sharing his stuff. He has always had really good roommates so he says he’s “due” for a bad one! Nonsensical.

  15. […] I have had two meetings with a Personal Capital representative – more on that soon. Oh, and I got a job and decided to move in with my parents. I’ve been working hard on my goals, though! Nothing like a deadline (my work start date) to […]

  16. […] weeks, I have been on the largest shopping spree of my life, bar none. This week I am starting my three-month fellowship in DC, which necessitated a professional wardrobe. Thankfully, the dress code is business casual four […]

  17. […] not have a roommate. I was going to say that he decided against getting one, but it was really that he was just against the idea from the beginning and procrastinated on looking for one until it was just too late. So we are still paying double […]

  18. […] apart so we are finally able to get a good sense of what our new monthly expenses are. (Of course, I’m already halfway through my fellowship, so that new knowledge won’t apply for long!) Transportation is very, very expensive. In […]

  19. […] a company that provides scientific services. This job has been my main source of income outside of my fellowship from this past spring. I’ve stuck with this job even though most people I know who have done it have quit after a short […]

  20. […] during my fellowship I started carefully and realistically planning my meals so that I wouldn’t overbuy and waste […]

  21. […] difficult last year for us both personally and financially. I was funemployed for a season and then spent 3 months in DC doing a fellowship. Our most recent solution to our two-body problem has been for me to be self-employed, building my […]

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